April 17, 2010 in Nation/World

Former Blackwater president faces charges

Mike Baker Associated Press
 

Contractors in hot water

The case opens a new front of the government’s oversight of the sullied security company. Several of the company’s contractors have previously been charged with federal crimes for their actions in war zones, but the company’s executives have thus far weathered a range of investigations.

RALEIGH, N.C. – The former president of Blackwater Worldwide was charged Friday with using straw purchases to stockpile automatic weapons at the security firm and filing false documents to cover up gifts given to the king of Jordan.

Gary Jackson, 52, who left the company last year in a management shake-up, was charged along with four of his former colleagues, according to the federal indictment.

Blackwater has been trying to rehabilitate its image since a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that left 17 people dead, outraged the Iraqi government and led to federal charges against several Blackwater guards – accusations later thrown out of court after a judge found prosecutors mishandled evidence. Around the time that Jackson left the company, Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services.

The charges against Jackson include a conspiracy to violate firearms laws, false statements, possession of a machine gun and possession of an unregistered firearm. Also indicted were former Blackwater general counsel Andrew Howell, 44; former executive vice president Bill Mathews, 44; former procurement vice president Ana Bundy, 45; and former weapons manager Ronald Slezak, 65.

The case stems in part from a raid conducted by federal agents at the company’s headquarters in Moyock, N.C., in 2008 that seized 22 weapons, including 17 AK-47s.

Blackwater officials enticed the local sheriff’s office to pose as the purchaser of 34 automatic weapons that would be stored on the company’s campus, something prosecutors called a straw purchase, according to the indictment. The Camden County Sheriff’s Office provided blank letterhead to the company, which then used the stationery to prepare letters ordering weapons.

Federal law prohibits licensed firearms dealers such as Blackwater from having more than two of the same style of machine gun. Law enforcement agencies can have fully automatic weapons.

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