A Nazareth-area man who worked for the U.S. government in Iraq, and was a decorated soldier before that, has admitted to taking at least $3.7 million in bribes and kickbacks -- money he used for the construction of a custom-built home in Bushkill Township worth more than $1.1 million.
John Alfy Salama Markus, 40, of the 400 block of Jacob Court, pleaded guilty last week before a federal judge in Newark, N.J., to taking the money in connection with more than $50 million in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contracts in Iraq. He was an Army corps employee at the time.
As part of the plea, Salama Markus -- a U.S. citizen born in Egypt -- agreed to forfeit at least $3.7 million. Part of that will be satisfied by forfeiting the Jacob Court house as well as five vehicles and two motorcycles.
Northampton County property records list the owners of the Jacob Court house as “John Salama” and a woman. The sale price, recorded Feb. 6, 2009, was $1,093,933.
A previous news story described Salama Markus as being a soldier in Iraq before going to work for the Army corps. An attorney for Salama Markus said in the story Salama Markus was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
Salama Markus pleaded guilty to three counts of a 54-count indictment returned in July 2011 that charged him with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and to defraud the U.S. government, money laundering and tax offenses. Two other Army corps employees and two foreign contractors also were charged in the indictment.
Information from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark says Salama Markus used foreign bank accounts to transfer bribe and kickback payments to at least 11 bank accounts he controlled in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The U.S. Attorney’s information does not specify which banks were involved.
The U.S. Attorney’s information says Salama Markus admitted that on Oct. 16, 2008 -- the date of settlement on his Jacob Court home -- he obtained a cashier’s check of "approximately" $850,807.54 made out to a title company in connection with the home’s construction. The check was drawn on a Bank of America account.
Salama Markus’ sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2013, and he is facing a possible lengthy jail term. The wire fraud count to which he pleaded guilty carries a term of 20 years in prison. The money laundering count carries up to 10 years, and a count for failing to file a report on his foreign bank accounts --in Jordan and Egypt -- carries up to five years in prison.
Each count also calls for substantial fines. After his indictment, Salama Markus was released on $500,000 bail secured by property. He was also ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device.