Fourteen current and former recruiters and soldiers of the U.S. Army National Guard have been charged in the Southern District of Texas for engaging in a multi-year scheme to defraud the U.S. Army National Guard Bureau, announced 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.
The cases against all 14 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, 11 of whom have pleaded guilty.
According to court documents, 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 Army National Guard soldiers who referred others to join the Army National Guard. Through this program, a participating soldier could receive up to $3,000 in 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.
In an indictment unsealed today in its entirety, Michael Rambaran, 50, of Pearland, Texas; and Edia Antoine, 27, Ernest A. Millien III, 49, and Christopher D. Renfro, 25, all of Houston, were charged with conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. According to court documents, between February 2008 and August 2011, Rambaran was a National Guard recruiter and Antoine, Millien and Renfro were recruiting assistants in G-RAP. Rambaran allegedly provided the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of potential soldiers to Antoine, Millien and Renfro so they could claim fraudulent recruiting referral bonus payments by falsely claiming they were responsible for referring those potential soldiers to join the military. The indictment alleges Antoine, Millien and Renfro paid kickbacks to Rambaran by providing a portion of the fraudulent bonus payments.
In a separate indictment unsealed on Aug. 9, 2013, Zaunmine O. Duncan, 37, of Austin, Texas, was charged with conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and witness tampering. According to court documents, between February 2008 and August 2010, Duncan, an Army National Guard recruiter, allegedly provided the personal identifiers of potential soldiers to four co-conspirators, identified as Recruiting Assistants 1 through 4, who used the personal identifiers to claim fraudulent recruiting referral bonuses through their G-RAP accounts. According to the indictment, Recruiting Assistants 1 through 4 paid kickbacks to Duncan by providing a portion of the fraudulent proceeds. The indictment also alleges Duncan and Recruiting Assistant 1, without permission or lawful authority, used the identity of a potential soldier to set up a G-RAP account through which Duncan and Recruiting Assistant 1 received additional fraudulent bonus payments. The indictment also charges Duncan with witness tampering, alleging Duncan instructed a witness, identified in the indictment as Recruiting Assistant 1, to make certain false exculpatory statements to federal law enforcement officers.
In another related but separate indictment also unsealed on Aug. 9, 2013, Jammie T. Martin, 36, and Michelle H. Davis, 32, both of Katy, Texas; and Danielle V. Applin, 27, of Harker Heights, Texas, were charged with conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. According to the indictment, from February 2009 through April 2011, Martin served as an Army National Guard recruiter and Applin and Davis served as recruiting assistants with the G-RAP. According to court documents, Martin allegedly provided the personal identifiers of potential soldiers to Applin and Davis so they could claim fraudulent recruiting referral bonus payments by falsely claiming they were responsible for referring the potential soldiers to join the military. The indictment alleges Applin and Davis paid kickbacks to Martin by providing a portion of the fraudulent bonus payments.
In addition, in the last three weeks, Melanie D. Moraida, 33, of Pearland, Texas; Elisha M. Ceja, 26, of Barboursville, W.Va.; Kimberly N. Hartgraves, 28, of League City, Texas; Lashae C. Hawkins, 27, of San Antonio; Annika S. Chambers, 27, of Houston; and Vanessa Phillips, 35, of Houston, were all charged in separate criminal informations with one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery.
A conviction for bribery carries as possible punishment a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison. Witness tampering and wire fraud, upon conviction, could each result in a maximum of 20 years imprisonment, while a conviction for the conspiracy charge carries a five-year maximum sentence. If convicted of aggravated identity theft, a defendant will also have to serve a mandatory penalty of two years in prison, which must be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed. All charges also carry a possible $250,000 maximum fine or twice the pecuniary gain or loss.
A criminal indictment or information is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.
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. Trial Attorneys Edward J. Loya Jr., 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 are prosecuting the case.