Six former linguist recruiters of a US government contractor are each facing years behind bars after being indicted by a grand jury on Thursday on charges of conspiracy and fraud, according to a statement by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Six Language Recruiters Indicted for Recruiting Unqualified Linguists for Deployment with U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistanhttps://t.co/kvpqzgXRGF— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) April 22, 2021
An American government contract valued at over $700 million with an Arlington, Virginia-based government contractor saw the defendants employed as linguist recruiters for US military operations.
The former employees - Mezghan N. Anwari, 41, of Centerville, Virginia, Abdul Q. Latifi, 45, of Irvine, California, Mahjoba Raofi, 47, of San Diego, California, Laila Anwari, 54, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, Rafi M. Anwari, 54, of Centerville, Virginia, and Zarghona Alizai, 48, of Annandale, Virginia – allegedly hired and deployed unqualified linguists with the US Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
“The defendants in this case allegedly engaged in an expansive conspiracy to enrich themselves at the expense of American soldiers and military operations in Afghanistan,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
‘Phony’ Translator Scheme
Among other things, the defendants are charged with knowingly recruiting linguists who lacked minimum language skills in Dari or Pashto – the two languages of Afghanistan with official status.
During oral proficiency interviews, they ostensibly arranged for other individuals, boasting better knowledge of the languages in question, to impersonate the unqualified candidates.
Furthermore, on occasion, the defendants themselves posed as phony translator candidates during interviews.
The six recruiters, who are scheduled to make their first appearance in court on 5 May, stood to make an impressive profit from the scheme they allegedly crafted. While receiving a base salary, they also stood to pocket a series of incentive-based bonuses.
The size of the latter hinged on how far through a multi-step vetting process a recruited candidate progressed, according to the DOJ.
“The defendants in this case allegedly engaged in an expansive conspiracy to enrich themselves at the expense of American soldiers and military operations in Afghanistan. Fraud and abuse of U.S. government contracts paid for by the American taxpayer, and designed to support our men and women uniform, will not be tolerated," stated Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas McQuaid of the DOJ’s Criminal Division.
After the indictment, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko praised special agents and their partners in the probe for uncovering the scheme that allegedly "put American troops at greater risk in a combat zone".
All six defendants face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, according to the DOJ.