A U.S. military recruiter pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to obtain approximately $190,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses from various U.S. military components and their contractor, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Sergeant First Class Jesus Torres-Alvarez, 31, of El Paso, Texas, was indicted on Sept. 13, 2011, along with former Specialist Xavier Aves, 40, of San Antonio; former Corporal Christopher Castro, 30, of San Antonio; former Staff Sergeant Grant E. Bibb, 40, of Eagle Pass, Texas; Specialist Paul Escobar, 31, of San Antonio; and Specialist Richard Garcia Jr., 28, of San Antonio.
According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, between approximately 2005 and 2008, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Reserves and the National Guard Bureau entered into contracts with Document and Packaging Broker Inc., to administer recruiting bonus programs designed to offer monetary incentives to U.S. soldiers who referred others to join the U.S. military. In addition, the Army managed its own recruiting programs that offered bonuses to soldiers who referred other individuals to join the Army or the Army Reserves.
Through these recruiting programs, a participating soldier could receive up to $2,000 in bonus payments for every person he referred to join the U.S. military. Based on certain milestones achieved by the referred soldier, a participating soldier would receive payments in the form of direct deposits and pre-paid debit card payments.
According to court documents, Torres-Alvarez has served as an active duty Army recruiter since August 2005. Torres-Alvarez admitted that he provided certain co-conspirators with the names and Social Security numbers of at least 15 potential soldiers in exchange for a total of at least $10,000 in payments. Torres-Alvarez also admitted that he understood at the time that his co-conspirators planned to use this information to obtain recruiting bonuses by falsely claiming credit for referring these potential soldiers to join the U.S. military.
Through the scheme, Torres-Alvarez’s co-conspirators allegedly obtained a total of at least approximately $190,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses.
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing has been scheduled for May 25, 2012, before Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in San Antonio.
The case against Torres-Alvarez arises from an investigation involving allegations that former and current military recruiters and U.S. soldiers in the San Antonio area engaged in a wide-ranging scheme to obtain fraudulent recruiting bonuses, which, to date, has led to charges against seven individuals.
On Jan. 28, 2010, Sergeant Ernest Gonzales, 50, of San Antonio, pleaded guilty before Chief Judge Biery to a one-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to court documents, Gonzales admitted to participating in the fraudulent bonus scheme. Gonzales has not yet been sentenced.
On Nov. 3, 2011, Castro pleaded guilty before Chief Judge Biery to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to court documents, Castro admitted that he participated in the scheme to defraud the Army’s recruiting bonus programs of at least approximately $164,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses. Castro has not yet been sentenced.
The case against Aves, Bibb, Escobar and Garcia is scheduled for trial on April 23, 2012, in San Antonio. These defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Edward J. Loya Jr. and Brian A. Lichter 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.