“Which brings us to Collin Baird,” Marin said. “Baird was listed as the president and CEO of a company based in Laredo, Texas, called CB Enterprises, Inc. This company seemed to be legitimate. Incorporation papers proved it was three years old by the time it opened an office in Baghdad. What’s more, CBE had enough money and connections to—how shall I say this?—impress the army into awarding it an eighty-million-dollar contract under its Logistics Civil Augmentation Program. The contract required CBE to replace the tents of our soldiers with housing trailers within a calendar year. To perform this task, CBE hired a Kuwaiti-based company as a subcontractor. The subcontract required the Kuwaitis to supply two thousand, two hundred and fifty-two trailers to the army’s Camp Anaconda. However, they were able to supply only half that many by the deadline.
“The army asked, where’s the rest of our trailers? The Kuwaitis put them off for a few days by claiming that the delay in delivery was caused by the army’s failure to have military escorts available for the trucking convoys that carried the trailers. Eventually the army said screw it, and sent a detachment to pick them up. Only there were no more trailers. There had never been as many trailers as CBE had promised, and CBE and the Kuwaitis knew it going in. The army went to have a talk with Baird. Unfortunately, he had disappeared at approximately the same time as the army sent its detachment to Kuwait, disappeared along with forty-eight-point-seven million dollars.”
“Wow,” I said.
“McKenzie, he’s not even in the Top Twenty of the crooks who ripped us off in Iraq,” Cooper said. “It was a massive clusterfuck.”
“In any case, the DOJ has been looking for him ever since,” Marin said. “No luck. We’ve been unable to find Baird. More to the point, we’ve been unable to find the money. We still can’t figure out how he or the money got out of Iraq. Which isn’t to say that Baird is some kind of criminal mastermind. There was so much chaos over there…”
“But then we got a break,” Cooper said.
“Yes,” Marin agreed. “We got a break. McKenzie, have you ever heard of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network?”
“No,” I said.
“FinCEN operates out of the U.S. Treasury Department. It’s their job to generate data on suspicious financial transactions, including cash deposits of ten thousand dollars or more, and pass it on to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. It’s how we detect money laundering and such.”
“I knew somebody did that.”
“Now you know who. It turned out that a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard out of Alabama deposited forty thousand dollars in cash into his checking account the day after he returned from Iraq. He had carried it home in a duffel bag. It was the same lieutenant colonel who was supposed to have been monitoring the contract with CB Enterprises. He turned a blind eye to what CBE was doing in exchange for the cash and an all-expense-paid vacation to Thailand. He confessed to all this about five minutes after our guys knocked on his door. He is now an ex-lieutenant colonel doing time in Talladega on fraud charges.”
“He was the one who put us onto David Maurell,” Cooper said. “The colonel said Maurell was introduced to him as the company’s CFO, yet it was clear to him that he ran the show, that Baird was just a figurehead. The colonel thought it was arranged that way because Maurell was of Cuban descent and the U.S. Army preferred to work with true-blue white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans. Anyway, according to the colonel, Maurell disappeared before Baird did—along with all of Uncle’s Sam’s money. Baird had no idea where Maurell had gone. So when he ran, he ran alone.”
“It was Maurell who engineered everything,” Marin said. “Unfortunately, the DOJ knows nothing about him. The man’s a ghost. No valid passport, no Social Security number—we were able to trace him only as far back as Laredo. That’s where his trail evaporated. We’ve been hoping to grab Baird so he could fill in the blanks.
“Two and a half years, McKenzie,” Marin added. “Over two and a half years the DOJ has been working this case one way or another and we’ve been getting nowhere—until we heard that you were coming down to Galena.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” I said. “You have a tap on Chief Hasselback’s phone?”
“Of course not,” Cooper said. “What do you take us for?”
“We have a tap on Mrs. Baird’s phone,” Marin said. “We’re watching everyone who had ever known Baird; you can’t possibly be surprised by that.”
“No, I guess I’m not.”
“When the chief called Mrs. Baird to tell her that you were coming down to talk about Maurell and her son’s disappearance, we felt we should listen, too. We didn’t know Baird was in Galena, either. We figure he must have slipped into town sometime Saturday night after the chief called his mother.”
“Or Sunday,” Cooper said. “While we were watching you.”
So it wasn’t just your imagination, my inner voice suggested. You really were being followed.
“Now it’s your turn,” Cooper told me.
I started with Jax Abana and the Nine-Thirty-Seven Mexican Mafia, filling in the blanks as I went.
“The two of them never did run to Mexico,” I said. “Baird must have crossed the border just to see what was what. The fact the Laredo PD found his car—if they had gone into the shopping mall, they might have found him, too. Meanwhile, Maurell used the money he stole from the Nine-Thirty-Seven as seed to create his fake corporation, and after a few years he found a way to sneak into Iraq to make his play.”
“Where is he now?” Marin asked.
“Somewhere in Minnesota, I’m guessing, living under the name Juan Carlos Navarre.”