Into the Memory Hole: Entertainment and War Profiteering

Ten years ago, today, a rich defense contractor rented out the Rainbow Room for his daughter’s bat mitzvah and paid Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Kenny G, Don Henley, Fifty Cent, and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith to perform. Who knows how much that cost (reportedly, $10 million), but it definitely was more money than I’ve made in my entire life.

The contractor was named David Brooks and he was the CEO of DHB Industries Inc., a company that specialized in making body armor for our troops. Roughly a year prior to this bat mitzvah celebration, the issue of armor for our troops had been the top story in the country.

In December 2004, while visiting out soldiers in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was confronted with a question about vehicle armor. His answer was one for the ages.

Rumsfeld fielded a question from Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team who complained that military vehicles are not properly armored:

“Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up armor our vehicles, and why don’t we have those resources readily available to us?”

Rumsfeld replied, “As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate that they believe — it’s a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously, but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment.”

It shouldn’t have been all that shocking that Rumsfeld hadn’t provided adequate protection for our soldiers. He told the Washington Post in January 2002 that “I’m not into this detail stuff. I’m more concepty.” And, in November of 2002, he told Steve Croft of CBS News, “I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” Quite obviously, he didn’t have a clue.

Also, quite obviously, it soon became so lucrative to profit off the disaster in Iraq that a body armor supplier like David Brooks could throw quite a party for his 13 year old daughter. Things were looking quite bright for Mr. Brooks.

But it didn’t last. Five years later, he found himself in a bit of hot water. That’s why Loretta E. Lynch, then the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, indicted Brooks for pretty much everything under the Sun.

By August 2013, the FBI announced that Brooks was going to jail.

Earlier today, in Central Islip, New York, the former chief executive officer of a Long Island-based supplier of body armor to the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies was sentenced to 17 years in prison for his leadership role in a $200 million fraud and obstruction of justice case, to be followed by five years of supervised release. DHB Industries Inc. founder David H. Brooks, who was convicted in September 2010 on 14 counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, securities fraud, obstruction of justice, and lying to auditors and subsequently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the IRS and filing false income tax returns, was also ordered to pay a fine of $8.7 million and to forfeit approximately $65 million in illegally-gained profits to the United States. The court will determine the amount Brooks must pay in restitution to the victims of his fraud scheme within 90 days. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert.

The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, FBI, New York Field Office (FBI); and Richard Weber, Chief, Criminal Investigation, Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

“DHB Industries made body armor that protected the men and women of the U.S. military, who risk their lives to keep us safe. To David Brooks, it was merely a vehicle for plunder and a means to feed his own greed. Brooks fancied himself a master of the sport of kings. In reality, he was a selfish man who looted his company, defrauded his investors, lied to the SEC and the investing public, and sought to profit through insider trading right before the collapse of his house of cards. And he demonstrated time and time again that he believes he is above the law. Today, David Brooks learned otherwise,” stated U.S. Attorney Lynch. “Thanks to the hard work and dedication of law enforcement, the investing public can rest easier knowing that for the next 17 years, Brooks will not be able to lie, cheat, and steal from anyone else.” Ms. Lynch thanked the FBI and IRS for leading the investigation and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service for its assistance in the case.

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos stated, “David Brooks repeatedly stole from his company, stole from investors, lied to auditors and regulators, and traded on inside information. He did all this to finance an obscenely lavish lifestyle paid for by his victims. Today’s sentencing is the justice the government has been seeking.”

“Tax fraud was integral to sustaining Brooks’s securities fraud schemes and fueling his lust for money,” stated IRS Chief, Criminal Investigation Weber. “Brooks falsified his income tax returns in order to prevent law enforcement from discovering that he was looting DHB. IRS-CI will turn over every stone to find where criminals are hiding and spending their illegal proceeds. This case should send a message to those who feel that they can commit fraud and evade taxes—their consuming greed will always leave a money trail.”

The FBI also announced that day that the prosecution of Brooks “was the result of efforts by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.”

I mention all this not just to point out that the fighting in Iraq lasted longer than five months and has now spread to Syria and the streets of Paris. I mention it because it’s a reminder of why you don’t start wars of choice. I mention it because there’s a lesson in here somewhere about violence and entertainment and greed and opulence and what it means to sell out. I mention it because the people we ask to fight our wars never seem to come first.

I mention it mostly because it’s disgusting, and I never want us to forget.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.