An Army National Guard recruiter pleaded guilty today in the Western District of Texas for his role in a bribery and fraud scheme that caused approximately $98,000 in losses to the Army National Guard Bureau, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Staff Sergeant Jermaine Britt, 39, of Richmond, Texas, pleaded guilty to a three-count criminal information charging him with one count of bribery, one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. The criminal information was filed on Nov. 2, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
The case against Britt arises from an investigation involving allegations that former and current military recruiters and U.S. soldiers in the San Antonio and Houston areas engaged in a wide-ranging bribery and fraud scheme to illegally obtain fraudulent recruiting bonuses. To date, the investigation has led to charges against ten individuals, all of whom have now pleaded guilty.
According to court documents, in approximately September 2005, the National Guard Bureau entered into a contract with Document and Packaging Broker Inc. to administer a recruiting program designed to offer monetary incentives to soldiers of the Army National Guard who referred others to join. Through this program, a participating soldier could receive up to $2,000 in bonus payments for every person whom the participating soldier referred to join the Army National Guard. Based on certain milestones achieved by the referred soldier, a participating soldier would receive payment through direct deposit into the participating soldier’s designated bank account. To participate in the program, soldiers were required to create online recruiting assistant accounts.
According to court documents, Britt enlisted in the Army National Guard in approximately July 2005, and served as a military recruiter from approximately November 2006. Britt admitted that between approximately May 2008 and April 2011, he and other recruiters obtained the names and Social Security numbers of potential soldiers and provided them to recruiting assistants, including Stephanie Heller, with the understanding that these recruiting assistants would use the information to obtain fraudulent recruiting bonuses. The recruiting assistants used the information to claim they were responsible for referring these potential soldiers to join the Army National Guard, when they were not. In exchange, Britt admitted that he personally received a total of $23,750 in cash payments.
Britt also admitted that after learning of a federal investigation into the fraudulent bonus scheme, he attempted to persuade Heller to falsify her statements to special agents of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (Army CID agents), whom Britt understood at the time were conducting a federal investigation of Britt’s and Heller’s unlawful activities. Specifically, Britt coached Heller on how she could provide false exculpatory explanations to Army CID agents concerning, among other things, Heller’s large cash withdrawals from her personal bank account, Britt’s e-mails to Heller in which he provided her with the personal identifiers of potential soldiers, and Heller’s use of Britt’s military computer to make fraudulent referrals under her recruiting assistant account.
On Oct. 4, 2012, Stephanie Heller pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud in connection with her unlawful dealings with Britt and another recruiter and her personal receipt of approximately $44,500 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses.
The charge of bribery carries a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison, the charge of conspiracy carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and the charge of obstruction carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Each charge also carries a maximum $250,000 fine, or twice the pecuniary gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing has been scheduled for Feb. 8, 2013, before Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in San Antonio.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Edward J. Loya Jr., Brian A. Lichter, and Sean F. Mulryne of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by agents from the San Antonio Fraud Resident Agency of the Major Procurement Fraud Unit, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.