WASHINGTON - A ring of Americans posing as contractors and their Nepalese drivers stole at least $40 million of jet and diesel fuel from an Army depot in Baghdad, according to an indictment cited in news media reports. Until they were caught, the dozen or so men in the ring operated an astoundingly successful con game in a war zone, the papers contend, apparently showing up in Iraq with nothing more than fake IDs and a talent for forging official requisition forms. Each time they filled up the tanker trucks at the depot in American headquarters near the Baghdad International Airport, the men would simply drive downtown and sell the fuel on the local black market, the court papers say. The papers indicate that in 2007 and 2008 the ring sold at least 10 million gallons of stolen fuel, and probably far more, into a black market notorious for its connections with Iraqi insurgents, The New York Times said. They are known to control large sectors of that market and to collect a hefty percentage of its profits. The operation described in the indictment contained payment schedules to ring members; a phony security contractor whose nickname was Bong; and the forged signature of a military contracting officer named Sergeant Bonus. The ring members said they worked for a company called Future Services. The indictment, handed down Friday in Federal District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, charged Robert John Jeffery, 55, who is accused of belonging to the ring, with conspiracy and theft of government property, crimes that the Justice Department said carried a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and fines of $250,000 or more. The investigation - which included stakeouts by federal agents, intercepted e-mail messages and interviews with informants - was handled by federal agencies including the FBI and the National Procurement Fraud Task Force at the Justice Department.