An American ex-contractor pleaded guilty to bribery and visa conspiracies while working on behalf of U.S. interests in Afghanistan during the war, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
Orlando Clark, along with his co-conspirator, Todd Coleman, personally pocketed $400,000 in bribes from an Afghan company in exchange for funneling millions in roughly a dozen contracts to the unnamed organization between 2011 and 2013, according to the Justice Department.
In a later plot, Clark allegedly also received bribes to sign at least 12 fallacious letters of recommendation for Afghans looking to support their special immigrant visa applications, according to prosecutors.
Over a roughly two-year period, Clark and Coleman schemed to give the CEO of the Afghan company "confidential information" about the procurement process to maximize the funding that the organization would receive in U.S. government contracts, prosecutors said. To hide the scheme, the pair opened a series of phony companies in 2012 to feed the bribes into a bank account under the guise of a legitimate car-exporting business in the United Arab Emirates.
For example, on Sept. 17, 2012, an Afghan bank in Kabul wired $90,000 to a bank in Atlanta, Georgia, as "payment for vehicles"; it was a bribe, according to court documents.
Over the next year, Clark and the unnamed CEO of the Afghan company allegedly moved thousands of dollars in bribes to the account, which the two Americans used for personal expenses, including the purchase of two BMW automobiles by Clark.
Prosecutors identified Clark as a construction manager for an unnamed U.S. company, though court records note that the contracts were awarded by the U.S. Army involving, among other projects, construction of an Afghan police station.
Clark's guilty plea came swiftly, within two weeks of the charges being filed. His docket did not list any legal representation.
Coleman's court records were unsealed the same day that the charges against Clark were filed.
Court proceedings for Coleman's case began in July of last year, revealing that he is a "former U.S. service member."
His branch does not appear to be listed in court documents, and Coleman is noted to have worked as an acquisition analyst for a separate, also unnamed, U.S. company. His position as an acquisition analyst gave him access to bid information, according to prosecutors; one of the bids was listed at over half a million dollars.
Clark charged Afghans looking for a special immigrant visa, or SIV, $1,500 for recommendation letters, according to court documents. That separate alleged scheme began in 2015 and lasted four years, after the bid scheme was ostensibly over.
Clark, who was residing in Georgia when the alleged plot began, received his first contact from an Afghan willing to pay a "gift" to the ex-contractor for a signed letter.
It is unclear whether the Afghan visa applicants who allegedly contacted Clark actually worked for the U.S.; the prosecutors noted only that Clark falsely represented himself as their supervisor for a fee. Throughout the chaos of the war, many Afghans who actually did work on behalf of the U.S. may have had several supervisors with whom they lost contact as the 20-year war progressed and a visa program riddled with dysfunction unfolded.
"Approximately one month later, the applicant sent an email to Defendant Clark indicating that the Department of State was asking for the applicant's supervisor (which Clark was not) to opine on whether the applicant posed a 'threat to the national security and safety' of the United States," court records said.
Four years later, when the State Department emailed Clark to verify his allegedly fake letter, he replied: "Yes, I confirm." It was one of at least 12 letters, according to prosecutors.
Clark is scheduled for sentencing in April and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison -- five for each charge. Coleman approved a plea agreement last July, according to court records and will be sentenced on Feb. 9, 2023.
-- Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @df_lawrence.