Money for nothing, chicks for free

As Bush talks of fiscal stewardship, a former CPA official prepares to plead guilty in a sex and bribery scheme.

Published February 1, 2006 8:39PM (EST)

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, George W. Bush talked about the importance of being a good "steward" of the taxpayers' money. Somehow, we doubt that this is what he had in mind: According to the New York Times, a former comptroller of Bush's Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq is expected to plead guilty Thursday to charges of bribery, conspiracy and money laundering related to a scheme to use "sexual favors, jewelry and millions of dollars in cash to steer reconstruction work to a corrupt contractor."

Robert J. Stein Jr. -- one of four Americans arrested in the case so far -- stands accused of stealing at least $2 million in American Iraqi cash, taking at least $600,000 worth of CPA property and accepting more than $1 million worth of bribes, the Times says. According to an earlier Times report, Stein got his job as the comptroller for the CPA after he was fired from a Florida company for falsifying payroll records and creating fake invoices for nonexistent purchases. Before that, Stein was convicted on a criminal charge of "access device fraud."

As part of the scheme in Iraq, Stein is alleged to have helped steer more than $8 million in contracts to a contractor who has also been arrested. According to court papers, the Times says, the contractor kept a "villa" in Baghdad where women provided "sexual favors" in exchange for "official actions in his favor or for refraining from exposing the scheme."

It's not clear whether the money lost in this corruption scheme is separate from or a part of the $9 billion the CPA lost to what an inspector general's report called "severe inefficiencies and poor management." That report came out right around the time of the president's last State of the Union address, the one in which he said that taxpayer money "must be spent wisely, or not at all."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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George W. Bush Iraq Iraq War Middle East State Of The Union War Room