WASHINGTON – A former employee of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., to 42 months in prison for stealing nearly $250,000 intended for the payment of shipping and customs services for the embassy, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Osama Esam Saleem Ayesh, 36, was also ordered to pay $243,416 in restitution and a $5,000 fine, as well as to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term. A federal jury convicted Ayesh on two counts of theft of public money and one count of engaging in acts affecting a personal financial interest. Ayesh was arrested at Dulles International Airport on Aug. 16, 2010, and indicted on Oct. 15, 2010, on the charges for which he was convicted.
Ayesh, a resident of Jordan, was hired by the Department of State as a shipping and customs supervisor at the embassy in Baghdad, who oversaw the shipments of personal property of embassy officials and personnel in Iraq. His duties required that he maintain close contact with local Iraqi companies and vendors with expertise in clearing goods through Iraqi customs. As a State Department employee, Ayesh was aware that he would be subject to the conflict of interest laws of the United States that prohibit government employees from using their position for personal profit.
According to court records, Ayesh used his State Department computer to create a phony e-mail account in the name of a real Iraqi contractor and used that e-mail account to impersonate the contractor in communications with embassy procurement officials. He also established a bank account in Jordan under his wife’s name to further his criminal scheme and falsified wire transfer instructions that directed U.S. government electronic funds transfers to that account.
Court records and evidence at trial showed that Ayesh was personally involved in establishing and operating blanket purchase agreements for the provision of customs clearance and delivery services to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. From November 2008 to June 2010, Ayesh submitted false invoices in the name of an Iraqi contractor – which Ayesh fabricated on blank stationery he kept in his embassy apartment – and caused the U.S. Department of State to wire $243,416 to his wife’s account in Jordan.
This case was prosecuted by David Laufman of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, who is on detail to the Department of Justice from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas McQuillan of the Eastern District of Virginia. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance in this matter. The case was investigated by special agents of the State Department’s Office of Inspector General and the FBI’s Washington Field Office.