Saturday, July 26, 2014         

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Pair admit guilt in Afghan bribery case

By Nelson Daranciang


Two former Schofield Barracks soldiers who were scheduled to go to trial today on bribery, conspiracy and money laundering charges involving a $20 million military contract in Afghanistan pleaded guilty Monday in federal court.

Retired Army Sgt. Charles O. Finch pleaded guilty to one count each of bribery and conspiracy, while Sgt. Maj. Gary O. Canteen pleaded guilty to one count of bribery.

Both face up to five years in prison for the bribery charges, while Finch faces up to 15 years for the conspiracy charge.

In exchange for their guilty pleas, prosecutors promised to drop the money-laundering charges.

Finch also agreed to repay the Department of Defense $200,000, while Canteen agreed to pay $50,000 in restitution.

The two men admitted conspiring to steer a DOD trucking and transportation services contract in 2004 that was ultimately worth more than $20 million to a contractor in exchange for the bribes.

"I was approached by two fellow soldiers asking me if I would let AZ Corp. back into the line haul business," Finch said.

Finch and Canteen were assigned to the 725th Logistical Task Force in Bagram Airfield at the time. Finch was the task force's noncommissioned officer in charge of operations support, responsible for coordinating trucking and transportation services into and out of Bagram. Canteen was the task force's first sergeant and shared living quarters with Finch.

The two fellow soldiers, Maj. Christopher P. West and 1st Lt. Robert G. Moore, of the Illinois Army National Guard 33rd Area Support Group, and Air Force Master Sgt. Patrick W. Boyd, of the 496 Air Base Squadron, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Chicago to bribery and conspiracy charges in 2009 in a related case involving AZ and other contractors.

AZ, its owner John Assad Ramin and his brother Tahir Ramin, pleaded guilty last month in Chicago to giving Finch $250,000 in bribes.

According to Finch's and Canteen's plea agreements, $100,000 of the bribe money went into the bank account of a Pearl City T-shirt and souvenir shop owned by Canteen. The two men then split the money.

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