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Army Officer, Wife Guilty In Bribe Scheme

An Army officer and his wife have pleaded guilty in a money laundering scheme involving contracts in Iraq, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday.

Maj. John Cockerham, 43, pleaded guilty to one count each of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering, the Justice Department said. His wife, Melissa, 41, pleaded guilty to a count of money laundering.

The pleas were taken on Jan. 31, but weren't unsealed until Tuesday, the Justice Department said.

John Cockerham admitted taking or being promised more than $9 million in bribes for awarding contracts while stationed in Kuwait, the Justice Department said. He was responsible for awarding contracts worth millions of dollars including those for bottled water.

Once he agreed to take the bribes, Cockerham told contractors to pay his wife, sister and others to hide the activity, the Justice Department said.

Melissa Cockerham admitted that she accepted more than $1 million in illegal bribe payments on her husband's behalf and that she stored it in safe deposit boxes at banks in Kuwait and Dubai, the Justice Department said.

A trial for John Cockerham's sister, Carolyn Blake, is set to begin Oct. 27.

As part of the plea agreements, the government said it would drop two counts of bribery and a count of conspiracy to obstruct justice against John Cockerham and a count of conspiracy and a count of conspiracy to obstruct justice against Melissa Cockerham.

Messages left for the attorneys listed in court documents as representing the Cockerhams were not returned Tuesday.