Official Pleads Guilty in Iraq Contract Bribe Scandal

A former U.S. occupation official in Iraq pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to steal more than $2 million and rigging bids on $8.6 million in reconstruction contracts.

Robert J. Stein, 50, of Fayetteville, N.C., admitted that he and his co-conspirators smuggled millions of dollars out of Iraq into the United States aboard commerical airliners and laundered cash through multiple bank accounts in Switzerland, Amsterdam and Romania.

Stein was a Defense Department employee who served as a contract official for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, controlling more than $82 million in funds slated for rebuilding the Middle Eastern country.

He told U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that he also stole $600,000 in cash and used coalition money to buy dozens of machine guns and other weapons for use by a private security company he and his co-conspirators had formed to operate in Iraq.

The bulk of the bid-rigging benefited businessman Philip H. Bloom, who faces federal conspiracy and money laundering charges. Bloom's name was not mentioned in court Thursday. But prosecutors have identified him and his role in the Stein conspiracy in other court papers.

In exchange for steering contracts to Bloom, Stein and others received plane tickets, jewelry, alcohol and sexual favors from women at Bloom's villa in Baghdad.

Bloom, a U.S. citizen who lived in Romania for many years, and five U.S. Army Reserve officials have been implicated with Stein in the theft and kickback scheme, according to court records.

Stein told the judge that Bloom, whom he referred to as "co-conspirator No. 6," made the initial approach about the scheme and that the thefts and bid-rigging "just came into play."

When Kollar-Kotelly asked who was in charge, Stein said, "I'd have to say myself, yes ma'am."