A U.S. Army officer who served with the U.S. governing administration
in Iraq was arrested on charges involving bribery, money laundering and a fraud
scheme, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday.
Army Reserve Lt. Col. Michael Wheeler, 47, was arrested on Wednesday
and was being held in Wisconsin, the department said in a statement. He is the
third person charged in the past few weeks in connection with the scheme.
The Justice Department said Wheeler was on active duty for the U.S.
Army in 2003 and 2004 and was responsible for developing contract solicitations
and ordering contracts for reconstruction efforts for the Coalition Provisional
Authority -- South Central Region.
According to court papers, Wheeler and his co-conspirators accepted
money and gifts to rig contract bids. Wheeler is also accused of stealing and
laundering funds from the CPA.
An affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court says Wheeler transported $100,000
back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He spent about $58,000 of that money for
a "variety of high-end tools."
Wheeler also faces numerous firearms charges, including conspiring to embezzle
and possess pistols, automatic machine guns and grenade launchers bought with
Wheeler is charged along with his co-conspirators of using the CPA funds to
buy dozens of firearms and related military-grade hardware in North Carolina
for their own use.
If convicted, Wheeler faces up to 30 years in prison.
Last month, Robert Stein, comptroller and funding officer for the CPA, and
Philip Bloom, a contractor for the CPA, were arrested on similar charges.