Former Army Soldier Indicted on Bribery and Related Charges for Facilitating Thefts of Fuel in Afghanistan
Stephanie Charboneau, aka Stephanie Shankel, 34, of Fountain, Colo., formerly a Specialist in the United States Army, has been indicted in the District of Colorado for her alleged role in assisting the thefts of fuel in Afghanistan and laundering the proceeds of crime, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Criminal Division announced.
According to the indictment returned on April 9, 2013, and now filed publicly, Charboneau was assigned to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Fenty, in eastern Afghanistan, as part of the 704th Brigade Support Battalion. Her duties included overseeing the movement of fuel by private Afghan trucking companies from FOB Fenty to nearby military bases. The indictment alleges that Charboneau conspired with Sergeant Christopher Weaver, her supervisor, and Jonathan Hightower, a civilian employee of FLUOR Inc., to facilitate the theft of fuel for money. Charboneau and her co-conspirators allegedly received money from a representative of an Afghan trucking company to enable that company to steal truckloads of fuel. The conspirators allegedly authorized the movement of truckloads of fuel from FOB Fenty – ostensibly to nearby bases – knowing and intending that when the fuel left FOB Fenty it would never reach the designated base and would instead be stolen. These events occurred from approximately February 2010 through approximately May of 2010.
In addition, the indictment charges that when Charboneau returned to the United States, she engaged in a series of transactions with the bribe proceeds to avoid the currency transaction reporting requirements. Charboneau allegedly purchased an automobile for $33,179 in cash through a $5,000 down payment, two $9,900 cashier’s checks she funded but were in the name of two acquaintances, and an $8,379 cashier’s check in her name.
Charboneau was charged with conspiracy, bribery, theft, money laundering and structuring. If convicted, she faces penalties of 20 years in prison for money laundering, 15 for bribery, 10 for theft of government property, and five for conspiracy and structuring. She also faces fines of $250,000 per count.
Weaver and Hightower have each pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy scheme and are awaiting sentencing.
This case was investigated by former Fraud Section Trial Attorney Mark Pletcher, who is currently an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of California, and Special Trial Attorney Mark H. Dubester. The case was investigated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Department of the Army, Criminal Investigations Division, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI Denver field office.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.