A Texas Army National Guard captain has been charged for his alleged role in a bribery and wire fraud scheme and two former soldiers in the Texas Army National Guard were sentenced for their roles in a separate scheme to defraud the National Guard Bureau and its contractor, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
These cases arose from an investigation concerning allegations that former and current soldiers and military and civilian contract recruiters in the San Antonio and Houston areas engaged in a wide-ranging scheme to obtain fraudulent recruiting referral bonuses. To date, 11 people have been charged in this ongoing investigation, including yesterday’s 17-count indictment of Fabian Barrera, 46, of Schertz, Texas, a Captain in the Army National Guard accused of personally obtaining more than $185,500 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses. Barrera made his initial appearance on May 16, 2013, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jillyn K. Schulze. The public is reminded that an indictment is merely a charge and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
According to court documents, in approximately September 2005, the National Guard Bureau entered into a contract with Document and Packaging Broker, Inc., to administer the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP), which was designed to offer monetary incentives to soldiers who referred others to join the U.S. military. To participate in the G-RAP, an eligible soldier needed to establish an online recruiting assistant (RA) account. Through these recruiting programs, a participating soldier could receive up to $3,000 in bonus payments for every person he or she referred to serve in the U.S. military.
Barrera, an RA in the G-RAP between approximately December 2005 and February 2012, is alleged to have paid Army National Guard recruiters for the names and Social Security numbers of potential soldiers and used this information to claim that he was responsible for referring dozens of potential soldiers to join the military, though he allegedly did not recruit any of those people. As a result, Barrera is accused of receiving more than approximately $185,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses, and the indictment alleges that Barrera paid various recruiters in the form of checks and cash payments.
Former Staff Sergeant Jermaine Britt, 39, of Richmond, Texas, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Biery for his role in obtaining $86,500 in fraudulent bonus payments. According to court documents, Britt served as a recruiter in the Houston area from approximately November 2006 until November 2012. He conspired with former Specialist Stephanie Heller, 37, of Wharton, Texas, who was an RA in the G-RAP and claimed approximately $44,500 in fraudulent bonuses through her account. Heller made approximately $19,750 in bribe payments to Britt, who served as a recruiter in the Houston area from approximately November 2006 until November 2012. Heller also made a $1,000 bribe payment to another recruiter in exchange for Britt and that recruiter providing the personal information of potential soldiers. In addition to accepting bribes from Heller, Britt worked with at least two other RAs to claim fraudulent bonus payments and accepted a total of $23,750 in bribe payments in exchange for providing the personal information of potential soldiers.
Britt also admitted that he obstructed justice by coaching Heller to make false statements to federal agents. In September of 2012, Heller recorded two conversations with Britt. In those conversations, Britt told Heller how she could provide false stories to federal agents to innocently explain incriminating conduct, such as large cash withdrawals from her bank account, her receipt of emails from Britt in which Britt provided the personal identifiers of potential soldiers, and her use of Britt’s military computer to make referrals under her RA account.
Britt pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud, bribery, and obstruction of justice on Nov. 9, 2012. Heller pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud and bribery on Oct. 4, 2012. Heller was also sentenced today to five years’ probation, and her cooperation was instrumental in the case against Britt.
These cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Edward J. Loya Jr., Brian A. Lichter, and Sean F. Mulryne of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. These cases are being investigated by agents from the San Antonio Fraud Resident Agency of the Major Procurement Fraud Unit, U.S. Army CID, and from the San Antonio Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.