Page last updated at 07:33 GMT, Friday, 6 March 2009

US officer 'stole Iraq aid funds'

US soldier in Baghdad in April 2007
US forces support reconstruction as well as security efforts in Iraq

A US army captain has been charged with stealing nearly $700,000 intended for emergency reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Michael Dung Nguyen, 28, is accused of stealing the money and sending it back home while he was stationed in Iraq between April 2007 and February 2009.

He allegedly spent the money on luxury cars, electronics and furniture.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges including theft of government property and money laundering.

At a district court hearing, prosecutors claimed Nguyen stole $690,000 (484,575) from the Commanders' Emergency Response Program (Cerp) - a pot of money designated to local commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan for urgent relief and reconstruction needs.

They allege Nguyen, who was working as a battalion civil affairs officer in Iraq, mailed bundles of $100 bills back to his home in Oregon state.

When he returned he opened numerous bank accounts and deposited the money in small amounts to avoid detection, the prosecutors claim.

He is also accused of attempting to launder the cash by buying a luxury BMW car and a 2009 model Hummer truck as well as computers, electronic equipment and furniture.

US Attorney Karin Immergut said the charges indicated a "flagrant and reprehensible disregard" of US military principles.

Nguyen is due to stand trial in May. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

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