WASHINGTON - A former soldier who also served as a civilian contract recruiter pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to obtain approximately $164,000 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.
Christopher Castro, 30, of San Antonio, Texas, pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Castro was indicted on Sept. 13, 2011, along with Xavier Aves, 40, of San Antonio; Grant E. Bibb, 40, of Eagle Pass, Texas; Jesus Torres-Alvarez, 31, of El Paso, Texas; Paul Escobar, 31, of San Antonio; and Richard Garcia, 28, of San Antonio.
According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Castro served at different times in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserves from approximately February 2007 through February 2008. He also served as a civilian contract recruiter from approximately June 2007 through October 2009.
According to court documents, between approximately 2005 and approximately 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 soldiers who referred others to join the U.S. military. In addition, the Army managed its own recruiting bonus programs, which 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 serve in the U.S. military. Based on certain milestones achieved by the referred soldier, a participating soldier would receive the recruiting bonus payments in the form of direct deposits and pre-paid debit card payments.
Castro admitted that between approximately August 2007 and March 2009, he and others paid active duty and civilian contract recruiters for the names and Social Security numbers of potential soldiers. Using the names and Social Security numbers he obtained, Castro and others claimed, through online accounts they set up to participate in the recruiting bonus programs, that they were responsible for referring these potential soldiers to join the military, when in fact they were not.
In addition, Castro admitted that, in his capacity as a civilian contract recruiter, he provided names and Social Security numbers of potential recruits to a co-conspirator in exchange for at least $1,500 in cash payments. Castro also admitted that he and another soldier, through an online account established in that soldier’s name, falsely represented that this soldier was responsible for referring potential soldiers to join the military.
Through this scheme, Castro and his co-conspirators obtained a total of at least $164,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses, which they arranged to be sent to their designated bank accounts. Castro admitted that he personally directed a total of approximately $26,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses to be deposited in his personal bank accounts.
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing has been scheduled for April 27, 2012, at 8:30 a.m. before Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery.
The case against Castro arises from an investigation involving allegations that former and current 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, Ernest Gonzales, 50, of San Antonio, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to court documents, Gonzales admitted that he participated in the scheme to defraud the Army’s recruiting bonus programs. Gonzales has not yet been sentenced.
The case against Castro’s co-defendants - Aves, Bibb, Torres-Alvarez, Escobar and Garcia, is scheduled for trial on Nov. 21, 2011, 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 CID.