New Orleans — Slidell businessman Elton “Mark’’ McCabe will appear in federal court Jan. 3 for a preliminary hearing on accusations that he took tens of thousands in kickbacks in 2009 while working in Afghanistan for a construction company that was doing U.S. government-funded reconstruction work in the war-torn country.
McCabe made an initial appearance in court Thursday, when his bail, a $25,000 personal surety bond, was set.
He was ordered to surrender his passport, and his travel was restricted to the Eastern District of Louisiana.
He can travel elsewhere in the continental United States only with prior approval.
McCabe returned to the United States this month after being imprisoned for two months in South Sudan, where he had been working since August.
A court there threw out charges that he had planned to kidnap an Indian businessman.
But days after his return, he was facing counts here stemming from work he did in Afghanistan in 2009.
According to an amended criminal complaint that was filed Dec. 7 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, McCabe worked as a vice president for a company based in Anacoco, identified as Company No. 1, that was doing work on an apron project for the Kandahar Airfield.
In January 2010, two company employees alleged that former employees — McCabe and three non-U.S. citizens — were involved in a kickback scheme, and the International Contract Corruption Task Force launched an investigation, court documents said.
According to the criminal complaint, the president of a company headquartered in Dearborn, Mich., said that after his company was awarded a subcontract on the project, McCabe asked for a “loan’’ of $60,000 for start-up costs associated with the project, according to the amended complaint.
That person, identified as Contractor No.1, “loaned’’ McCabe $7,000 in cash and $53,000 through a wire transfer to the personal bank account of his wife, Anne McCabe, in Slidell.
The contractor “admitted to the ICCTF agents that he would not have loaned the money to McCabe has this subcontract not existed, and McCabe promised that Contractor #1 would get more work later,’’ the complaint said.
The contractor also told agents that McCabe requested a second “loan’’ of $30,0000 to buy material for the apron subcontract, assuring him that he would be paid if full once the company was paid.
McCabe never paid back the money, the complaint said, and told the contractor to “forget about it.’’
A memorandum dated July 18, 2009 awarded Contractor No.1 a $3.2 million subcontract for the apron project, the complaint said, noting that was the same date on which McCabe acknowledged receiving $60,000 from the company.
Transfer documents for the money, submitted to a bank in Beirut, Lebanon, contained a handwritten note that said the money was received to buy a vehicle from McCabe’s wife.
But when Anne McCabe was interviewed by agents, according to court documents, she told them that she did not sell a car to the contractor and didn’t recall reading any statements to that effect.
She told agents that it was not unusual to get wire transfers from overseas and that she used the money in question to pay for her daughter’s wedding and to pay bills.
She also indicated to agents that the family was having financial difficulties at the time.
McCabe told agents that the money was needed for start-up costs and that he was getting no support from the company’s CEO.
He told agents that if the money had been transferred into the company’s account, he believed that the CEO wouldn’t give it to him.
He told agents that his wife sent him “a little at a time by mail,’’ according to the criminal complaint.
But later, McCabe admitted that none of the money was sent back to him in Afghanistan, court documents say. He said he used the money to support his family “since he was only making $10,000 per month,’’ the complaint said.
McCabe faces one count of soliciting kickbacks, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
He also faces one count of wire fraud, which carries a 20 year maximum term and a $250 maximum fine.