Four current and former soldiers of the U.S. Army National Guard pleaded guilty today for their roles in bribery and fraud schemes that caused a total of more than $210,000 in losses to the U.S. Army National Guard Bureau.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas made the announcement.
Melanie D. Moraida, 33, of Pearland, Texas; Kimberly N. Hartgraves, 28, of League City, Texas; Lashae C. Hawkins, 27, of San Antonio; and Vanessa Phillips, 35, of Houston, all pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery.
The cases against all four defendants arise 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 corruption scheme to illegally obtain fraudulent recruiting bonuses. To date, the investigation has led to charges against 25 individuals, 15 of whom have pleaded guilty.
According to court documents filed in all four cases, in approximately September 2005, the National Guard Bureau entered into a contract with Document and Packaging Broker, Inc. (Docupak) to administer the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP). The G-RAP was a recruiting program that offered monetary incentives to soldiers of the Army National Guard who referred others to join the Army National Guard. Through this program, a participating soldier could receive bonus payments for referring another individual to join. 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.
Moraida, Hartgraves, Hawkins and Phillips all admitted that they paid Army National Guard recruiters for the names and Social Security numbers of potential Army National Guard soldiers. They further admitted that they used the personal identifying information for these potential soldiers in claiming that they were responsible for referring the potential soldiers to join the Army National Guard, when in fact they had not referred them.
As a result of these fraudulent representations, Moraida collected approximately $14,500 in fraudulent bonuses; Hartgraves collected approximately $2,000 in fraudulent bonuses; Hawkins collected approximately $33,000 in fraudulent bonuses; and Phillips collected approximately $10,000 in fraudulent bonuses.
The charge of bribery carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss. The charge of conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss.
The defendants are all scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 17, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal in Houston.
The cases are being investigated by special agents from the San Antonio Fraud Resident Agency of Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit. These cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Brian A. Lichter, Sean F. Mulryne and Mark J. Cipolletti of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pearson of the Southern District of Texas.