WASHINGTON – A U.S. Army master sergeant pleaded guilty today to accepting thousands of dollars in gratuities from contractors during his deployment to Iraq as a field ordering officer at a forward operating base in Iraq, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina William N. Nettles.
Julio Soto Jr., 52, of Columbus, Ga., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Chief Judge Margaret B. Seymour in the District of South Carolina to a criminal information charging him with one count of conspiracy to accept illegal gratuities.
According to court documents, Soto was a master sergeant in the U.S. Army, deployed to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Hammer in Iraq, as a field ordering officer (FOO), a public official. FOO funds are used to purchase miscellaneous items and supplies such as paint, lumber and plywood from local vendors. It is a violation of federal law for field ordering officers to accept gratuities from contractors dependent upon them for contracts.
In or about March 2007 through October 2008, Soto, along with an alleged U.S. Army co-conspirator, was involved with the construction of a government building at FOB Hammer by local Iraqi contractors. Soto and his alleged co-conspirator unlawfully sought, received and accepted illegal gratuities for helping Iraqi contractors gain U.S. government contracts, and then purchased U.S. Postal money orders with the illegal proceeds and mailed them back to the United States.
At sentencing, Soto faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or twice the pecuniary gain or loss, and up to three years of supervised release. As part of his plea agreement, Soto agreed to pay $62,542 plus interest in restitution to the United States.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Trial Attorney Mark Grider of the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, on detail from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), and by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean A. Eichelberger of the District of South Carolina. The case is being investigated by SIGIR, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Major Procurement Fraud Unit of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.