Four current or former Utah National Guard members are facing criminal charges alleging they scammed or helped defraud a recruiting incentive program by falsely claiming they were responsible for bringing in new recruits.
The four were charged with exploiting a program in which Guard members signed up as "recruiting assistants" and then could earn $2,000 for attracting new members.
The Guard Recruiter Assistance Program was scuttled in 2012 by Army Secretary John McHugh after an audit found that more than a quarter of the $339 million paid out was "at risk for fraud," according to the Washington Post.
Indicted this week in U.S. District Court for Utah were Maj. Marc Lessor Cooper, Jesse Lee Howell and James Keith Summer. A fourth man, Darron Terry Smith, was indicted in July.
"If the allegations of these indictments are proven true, it is behavior not consistent with the professionalism and integrity of the Utah National Guard or its members," said Lt. Col. Steven Fairbourn, spokesman for the Utah Guard. "Integrity is one of our Core Army Values and we take violations of our standards seriously."
According to the charges, Cooper, Howell and Smith used personal information from new recruits to claim signing bonuses.
Because Cooper is an active duty officer in the Guard, he was not eligible to receive the bonuses. But Cooper allegedly enrolled and submitted information on at least seven recruits even though he had no role in their signing, according to the charges.
He received at least $14,000, the indictment says, and faces one charge each of wire fraud and theft of government property.
Howell allegedly obtained personal information on recruits from Summers, a full-time recruiter not eligible to receive bonuses. Howell used the information to obtain bonuses and allegedly paid Summers for the information, according to the indictment.
Howell also helped two others set up accounts to obtain bonuses and then supplied the information to obtain them, the indictment says.
Howell’s account and the related ones took in $22,000, the charges claim. He faces 10 charges of wire fraud, theft of government property and aiding and abetting the theft of government property. Summers faces seven counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting the theft of government property.
Howell and Summers were discharged from the Guard in 2010 after an investigation into their activities, according to Fairbourn. The Guard also is investigating Cooper, he said.
Smith, now a professor at the University of Tennessee, faces eight counts of wire fraud and theft of government property. He allegedly received $28,000 by submitting false information about recruits.
Cooper, Howell and Summers could not be contacted for comment, while Smith did not reply to an email.
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