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A high-ranking member of the Air Force's procurement office with a mandate to repair his department's reputation died in an apparent suicide, two weeks after a newspaper reported he accepted more than $26,000 from a private contractor.

Civilian official Charles D. Riechers, 47, was found dead at his home on Sunday night after apparently killing himself by running his car's engine in an enclosed garage, The New York Times reported today.

Riechers was under scrutiny by the Senate Armed Services Committee for an arrangement with Commonwealth Research Institute, which paid him $13,400 per month while he awaited clearance from the White House for his appointment as principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition.

Riechers worked on several acquisition projects for the Air Force during the two month's he was on the payroll of Commonwealth Research. The company is a non-profit group owned by Concurrent Technologies. His arrangement with the contractor was first reported by The Washington Post.

Riechers's death comes as accusations of favoritism and inefficiency have plagued the Air Force's procurement program. The Pentagon and Justice Department are conducting criminal investigations into allegations of bribery and other offenses involving as much as $6bn in contracts to provide supplies to US troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, according to The Times.

Last year, the Pentagon canceled a $23bn deal with Boeing after disclosures that the Air Force's top procurement officer gave the contractor special treatment before taking a job at the company. In May, Riechers called the scandal an "aberration" and said one of his top priorities was restoring credibility to the department. ®

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