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Contractor shipped home $150,000 cash in box

Von: Terry (kilowatt@charter.net) [Profil]
Datum: 06.03.2008 19:05
Message-ID: <lhc0t31sunobr3r9n7jdgrqa93ktchodkl@4ax.com>
Newsgroup: alt.politics.immigration
http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/nation/stories/MYSA030608.01A.fraud.38e1e38.html

Documents say contractor shipped home cash in box

Web Posted: 03/05/2008 11:16 PM CST

Guillermo Contreras
Express-News

The FedEx packages shipped to San Antonio contained typical souvenirs
from Iraq: jewelry, kites and T-shirts.

They also held at least $150,000 in cash, all undeclared, according to
court documents unsealed this week.

The sender, David Ricardo Ramirez, illegally took the money from the
billions of dollars that American taxpayers have poured into Iraq
since the U.S. invasion in 2003, the records show.

On Wednesday, a federal grand jury in San Antonio indicted Ramirez on
charges of smuggling bulk amounts of cash and structuring bank
transactions to evade cash-reporting requirements.

He has sat for weeks in a downtown San Antonio jail as agents with
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, the Air Force and
the Army follow the trail of the cash he allegedly mailed to his
sister. Agents suspect Ramirez spent it on a condo on Lake Travis in
Austin, property in Val Verde County, a 1989 Lamborghini and a 2007
Ducati motorcycle.

"This is a contracting fraud investigation that is still ongoing,"
said Erik Vasys, spokesman for the FBI.

Though most details remain closely guarded, a review of his case by
the San Antonio Express-News reveals a pattern similar to incidents of
corruption that have embarrassed the Pentagon. Fraud and war
profiteering in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan have cost taxpayers
millions, investigators have found.

Ramirez worked from Nov. 1, 2006, to Nov. 30, 2007, for a U.S.-based
contractor, Readiness Management Support, or RMS, at Balad Air Base,
Iraq. He was initially detained in December by the FBI in San Antonio
on charges of making false statements to get the job, court records
show. RMS has a contract with the Air Force to help maintain the
military branch's operations overseas.

Ramirez's job title was "installation community planner," and his
duties included planning sites for new construction within military
bases in Iraq. The unsealed documents allege Ramirez lied on a federal
form  required for a security-sensitive position  by claiming to
have never been charged with or convicted of a crime.

But agents found he had several arrests on charges including theft by
check, robbery, drug possession, drunken driving and unlawfully
carrying a weapon, the documents show. As of December, at least, he
was on probation for a Dec. 18, 2003, felony drug-possession
conviction in Bexar County.

It was not immediately clear how Ramirez was hired for a sensitive
job, but it mirrors other missteps. In 2005 and 2006, for instance,
U.S. investigators prosecuted a contracting corruption ring that was
partly led by Robert Stein, a convicted felon who was inexplicably put
in charge of $82 million in contracts for the Coalition Provisional
Authority, which oversaw the reconstruction of Iraq until it was
phased out in 2004.

Stein exploited a freewheeling system in which $12 billion in cash 
mostly shrink-wrapped $100 bills on wooden pallets  was shipped by
the Federal Reserve Bank to Iraq. No one knows where most of it went,
although Paul Bremer, the former head of the CPA, told Congress in
February 2007 that the money was handed to Iraqi ministries.

In Ramirez's case, the documents do not say where he got the cash, but
it did not land in his account by direct deposit, like his RMS salary.

Ramirez's lawyer, Jay Norton, described a more innocent scenario.

"He may have done some kind of side jobs for contractors, and they're
all friends to a degree," Norton said. "Contractors and the people
over there, they deal in cash, no checks. David may have done
something that may have been inappropriate doing work on the side that
he was not supposed to, but it was not illegal."

The records say Ramirez shipped five packages to his sister, Yolanda
Urbano, that contained souvenirs and some cash. Agents intercepted one
package in October 2007 and found $14,800 in sequentially numbered $50
and $100 bills concealed inside a wooden humidor, the documents said.
The agents took an inventory of the package before allowing it to
reach Urbano. They then followed her to Ramirez's bank and found she
deposited most of it in smaller amounts over several days to avoid the
reporting threshold of $10,000.

Urbano has not been charged.

Norton said Ramirez was not trying to circumvent customs declaration
rules.

"He didn't know that there were any kind of reporting requirements,"
Norton said. "He thought that if you deposit a certain large amount of
money, you'd have to pay taxes. He wasn't trying to hide it."

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