Employees of contractor barred from Iraq resurrect business
Wall Street Journal at Pittsburgh Post Gazette May 17, 2012
On Jan. 3, 2005, Jerry Cullen signed an unusual document at the Baghdad headquarters of his employer, Custer Battles LLC, which the U.S. military had accused of fraud and barred from receiving any new Iraq contracts.
The document was a single-page “bill of sale.” Attached were several pages detailing assets such as cars, trucks, prefabricated housing and communications gear that Custer Battles was selling. The buyer was a little-known company in Bucharest, Romania, called Danubia Global Inc. The document said Danubia would pay Custer Battles “U.S. One Dollar” upfront, and an unspecified amount of money in the future. The company never gave Custer Battles any additional money, Danubia executives say.
While the U.S. sanctions technically put Custer Battles out of business, it never actually shut down. After paying its dollar, Danubia took on most of Custer Battles’s employees, who continued to work out of Custer Battles trailers on the grounds of Baghdad’s airport. They were paid, for a time, from Custer Battles bank accounts. Danubia’s owner, Richard Levinson, was a former Custer Battles senior executive. After signing the sale document, Mr. Cullen left Custer Battles to work for Danubia as a consultant.
Now, the Custer Battles-Danubia link is the focus of a federal criminal investigation. Law-enforcement authorities are exploring whether Danubia was an artificial entity created to evade the government ban on Custer Battles, according to investigators involved in the probe. They’re examining whether Danubia executives defrauded the federal government by obtaining millions of dollars of contracts they weren’t entitled to receive.
Mr. Levinson says in a phone interview that Danubia has no continuing ties to Custer Battles or that company’s two founders. He stresses that neither he nor any of the employees who went with him were linked to the wrongdoing at their former firm. “I can say simply, honestly, and without reservation that Danubia is not a shell company,” he says
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