COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - An Army master sergeant has pleaded guilty to accepting thousands of dollars in gratuities from contractors during his deployment to Iraq as a field ordering officer at a forward operating base.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said that 52-year-old Master Sgt. Julio Soto Jr. of Columbus, Ga., pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to accept illegal gratuities.

Authorities say Soto and a co-conspirator sought, received and accepted illegal gratuities for helping Iraqi contractors gain U.S. government contracts, then used the gratuities to purchase postal money orders and mail them to the United States.

Soto faces up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release. Under his plea agreement, he agreed to pay $62,542 plus interest in restitution to the U.S.

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