Alaska-based soldier admits accepting illegal gratuities

Captain received about $43,000 in gifts, cash to favor Iraqi company.

Anchorage Daily NewsMarch 1, 2012 

Gold coins and diamond rings are just a couple of the kickbacks an Alaska-based soldier received from an Iraqi contractor, according to federal court documents.

Capt. Michael George Rutecki, assigned to Fort Wainwright, signed a plea agreement admitting he accepted illegal gratuities, a felony, in exchange for helping a Baghdad contractor, the Nibras Group, profit from work for which the Army paid, according to the plea agreement. Rutecki was a pay agent in charge of disbursing money for civil service projects in Iraq from March 2008 to December 2011, the plea agreement says.

Federal prosecutors signed the agreement Tuesday, and a judge is set to review it March 7 in Anchorage at Rutecki's sentencing hearing.

All told, Rutecki took about $42,800 in gifts and cash in exchange for favoring the Nibras Group in contracts for a large electrical generator and school repair, according to the agreement.

Rutecki worked at Camp Rustimaya in Iraq, about six miles southeast of the Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad of Sadr City, when he received the illegal gifts. Rustimaya is located near a sewage treatment facility and a garbage incinerator and is known for its flies and poor air quality.

Nibras Talib, the contracting company's general manager, gave Rutecki $10,000 cash, 15 gold coins, two silver rings with diamonds, two necklaces, a carpet, two paintings, a sword, and a suit. He also tried to give Rutecki a two-carat diamond ring worth about $26,000, the plea agreement says.

According to the court papers, Talib emailed Rutecki on May 3, 2008, to tell him about the ring:

"Dear Michael, I brought you last night a beautiful diamond it is pure crude brilliant 2.00 ct ... this is your share from the 1 MKV Generator you can forward it to your fiance to check it for you if you want."

It's unclear in the court documents what became of the ring or how the investigation of Rutecki's dealings began.

Rutecki faces up to two years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to a year of supervised release at his sentencing, though the actual sentence will likely be lighter depending on any mitigating factors. Along with any other assets he obtained illegally, Rutecki must forfeit the gifts he received and pay $10,500 restitution, the plea agreement says.

Rutecki is currently assigned to the 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Wainwright, which he joined in November 2010, according to U.S. Army Alaska. The unit deployed to Iraq from January to December 2011. An Army spokesman said Rutecki was previously assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, which deployed to Iraq from March 2008 to March 2009, when some of the illegal activity may have taken place.

The Army has not yet taken any disciplinary measures against Rutecki, according to Lt. Col. Bill Coppernoll. The investigation was handled entirely by the U.S. Department of Justice, with whom Rutecki's chain of command has been cooperating, Coppernoll said. Any action to apply military discipline against Rutecki will occur later, Coppernoll said.


Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

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