US Military Contractors Recruited Linguists That Couldn’t Even Speak The Target Language, DOJ Says

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Six former language recruiters of a U.S. government contractor were indicted Wednesday for hiring and deploying unqualified linguists with the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan.

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 were charged with several counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

The defendants were allegedly paid based on “how far through a multi-step vetting process a recruited candidate progressed,” the statement reads. (RELATED: DOD Linguist Pleads Guilty To Feeding Top Secret Government Information To Hizballah After Falling In Love)

The recruiters arranged for individuals fluent in Pashto and Dari to take proficiency exams instead of the unqualified candidates, and in some cases, even sat the exams themselves, the indictment alleges. The tests were “independently conducted by another government contractor,” according to 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,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas McQuaid of the DOJ’s Criminal Division said. “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.”

“This indictment alleges serious crimes that threatened to put American troops at greater risk in a combat zone,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko said, according to DOJ. “I’m proud that SIGAR special agents and their investigative partners got to the bottom of this alleged scheme.

All six of the defendants are scheduled to make their first appearance in court on May 5. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, according to DOJ.