Utah Man Pleads Guilty to Soliciting Gifts and Property Under False Pretenses
ALBUQUERQUE – Michael Vernon Rupert, 42, of Alton, Utah, pleaded guilty this morning in Las Cruces federal court to an indictment charging him with three counts of solicitation and use of gifts. Rupert entered his guilty plea without the benefit of a plea agreement.
Rupert, a former U.S. Army sergeant, was arrested on a criminal complaint in Utah on Oct. 11, 2013, and was transferred to Las Cruces federal court to answer the charges on Nov. 12, 2013. On Jan. 15, 2014, Rupert was indicted on three counts of unlawful solicitation and use of gifts. According to the indictment, in July 2012, Rupert solicited gifts and property from three companies by falsely claiming that they were for use by the U.S. Army. At the time of the offenses charged in the indictment, Rupert was residing in Hondo, N.M.
According to the criminal complaint, Homeland Securities Investigations (HSI) initiated an investigation into Rupert in Nov. 2012, after receiving information that Rupert was soliciting military and law enforcement type clothing and shooting gear from manufacturers by falsely claiming to be a U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major stationed at White Sands Missile Base. During the solicitations, Rupert claimed the goods would be used for testing and evaluation by the U.S. Army and implied that the Army would purchase large quantities of the manufacturers’ products depending on testing and evaluation, and his recommendation. HSI’s investigation revealed that Rupert solicited merchandise valued at approximately $35,000 from 37 manufacturers and distributors between July 2012 and May 2013. Although Rupert relocated from Hondo, N.M., to Alton, Utah, in Oct. 2012, he unlawfully solicited approximately $32,000 of merchandise before moving to Utah.
The criminal complaint alleges that Rupert continued his unlawful solicitation scheme when he moved to Utah, and that an investigation by Utah state authorities led to the discovery of three more manufacturers and distributors from whom Rupert unlawfully solicited merchandise. In Oct. 2013, Utah authorities searched a trailer Rupert was towing as he was in the process of moving to Missouri and found merchandise sent to him by a number of the manufacturers who had responded to Rupert’s solicitations.
Rupert remains on conditions of release pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. At sentencing, Rupert faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each of the three counts to which he pleaded guilty.
This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of HSI with assistance from the Kane County (Utah) Sheriff’s Department, and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Pleters of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.