Plumbing boss charged Pentagon $1m for two washers
Ewen MacAskill in Washington
August 17, 2007
Plumbers are notorious for excessive bills. But none has come even remotely close to matching an extravagant claim by a South Carolina firm: almost $1m (£500,000) for two metal washers worth 19c each.
Charlene Corley, 47, co-owner of the plumbing and electrical firm C&D Distributors, who supplied parts to the military, is awaiting sentence after pleading guilty yesterday to defrauding the Pentagon. She faces 20 years in jail.
The most expensive washers in history were part of $20.5m the company stole from the Pentagon over the last 10 years. The company shipped plumbing and electrical parts to US bases round the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
It took advantage of an automated system intended to cut out red tape by making speedy payments. The company repeatedly added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of shipping parts.
The company claimed $998,798 for sending the two washers, which could have been put in an envelope and posted through normal mail for a few dollars.
Corley used the money for luxury homes, cars, plastic surgery and jewellery.
She admitted her role in the fraud but lawyers placed most of the blame on her sister and co-owner, Darlene, who committed suicide in October after being approached by investigators.
Other bills included $445,640 for shipping one elbow pipe worth $8.75, $492,096 for a machine thread plug and $403,436 for six screws worth $59.94.