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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

THURSDAY - April 7, 2011

FORT BRAGG SOLDIERS PLEAD GUILTY TO EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGE

RALEIGH - United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced that in federal court today two United States Army Sergeants pled guilty before United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle to charges relating to the theft of money from a government contractor. EDWIN VANDO, 33, and JUAN LAMBOY RIVERA, 30, both previously deployed with the 82nd Finance Battalion to Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan, pled guilty to being an employee of the United States who converted property of another, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 654.

“While being in a war zone is a harrowing experience and we, as a nation, are grateful for those who choose to put their life on the line for our freedom, we cannot allow fraudulent acts to occur that rob honest people,” commented Mr. Holding. “It was refreshing to learn that the Adbul Wasi Faqiri Company came forward to correct what they believed to be an error in their favor. It was disheartening to learn that United States soldiers tried to take advantage of that honesty.”

According to the March 24, 2011, Criminal Information, VANDO, currently of Hope Mills, North Carolina, and LAMBOY RIVERA, currently of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the Camp Eggers Finance Office, embezzled over $1.2 million belonging to the government contractor, Abdul Wasi Faqiri Company, Ltd., who provided a variety of military apparel and equipment in support of the Afghan National Army and Police.

The investigation revealed that in May, 2009, a representative of the Abdul Wasi Faqiri Company, thinking the company had been overpaid, contacted the finance office wanting to return the money. The finance office determined that the increase of payment was not a result of an overpayment but rather a result of a change in the currency exchange rate. However, the company representative was contacted, told it was an overpayment, and instructed to immediately wire the alleged overpayment to a specific account, which had been set up by an Afghan interpreter. The funds were then withdrawn from the account, and distributed among the conspirators.

At sentencing, set for the July term of court, each defendant faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment followed by up to three years’ supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. A Forfeiture Notice was also filed at the same time of the Criminal Information, requiring the defendants to forfeit eight silk Persian rugs, which are in the possession of federal law enforcement officers, and currency in the amount of $1,297,959.31, of which $1,206,560 is currently in the possession of federal law enforcement officers; and four $1,000 money orders, which are currently in the possession of federal law enforcement officers.

Special Agent in Charge John F. Khin, Southeast Field Office, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, commented, “These Army Non-Commissioned Officers violated the trust of the American people and our allies by greedily lining their own pockets with over $1.2 million in cash while their fellow service members risked their lives in combat operations in Afghanistan. The DCIS continues to aggressively investigate any fraud and corruption that undermines the integrity and effectiveness of U.S. military operations and programs around the world.”

“War zones are chaotic, and criminals seize the opportunity because they think no one is watching. This case proves that even overseas we will bring criminals to justice for preying on unsuspecting victims. We would like to express our appreciation to the Agents assigned to the Legal Attache in Kabul and the FBI International Corruption Unit,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Mark A. Morgan, head of the FBI in North Carolina. “The actions of these two men shouldn’t erode public support of our Armed Forces protecting our nation overseas. They are only two in hundreds of thousands who face our enemies each day, bravely and honorably.”Investigation of this case was conducted by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, United States Department of the Army - Criminal Investigation Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan represented the government. AUSA Rangarajan is assigned to the Office’s Economic Crimes Unit.

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

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