Eight California National Guard Members Alleged To Have Participated In Recruitment Fraud
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Grand juries in Fresno and Sacramento have indicted eight current or former members of the California National Guard, in seven separate cases, charging them with wire fraud for fraudulently obtaining recruiting referral bonuses, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, the United States Army contracted with a company called Document and Packaging Broker Inc. (DOCUPAK) to administer the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP). Under G-RAP, members of the California National Guard served as Recruiting Assistants. If a Recruiting Assistant referred a potential Guard member to a recruiting office and that person ultimately enlisted, the Recruiting Assistant was eligible to receive monetary compensation disbursed by DOCUPAK.
Each of the defendants indicted today served in the California National Guard and is alleged to have played a role in causing DOCUPAK to issue unearned recruiting compensation by falsely claiming that various enlistees had been referred to recruiting offices by particular eligible Recruiting Assistants, when in fact they had not. Each of the indicted defendants is alleged to have received recruiting compensation as a result of those false referrals.
U.S. Attorney Wagner stated: “Ripping off a program intended to enhance our armed services is not just illegal, it is reprehensible. We will continue to pursue those who attempt to undermine the military for their own personal profit.”
“We take allegations of fraud very seriously in the U.S. Army and will continue to pursue those allegations with steadfast commitment and aggressive investigative techniques where ever the evidence leads us,” said Mr. Frank Robey, Director of the Major Procurement Fraud Unit of the Army's Criminal Investigative Command.
“The Army National Guard trusted the individuals indicted today to attract and assist others through the recruiting process, and compensated them for these efforts,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the Sacramento FBI. “Instead, the recruiting assistants are alleged to have stolen federal funds by circumventing established processes, claiming recruitment of individuals whom they often had never met, and in some cases, diverting portions of the payments to others who are prohibited from receiving the funds.”
"Today's indictments reflect the essential interagency coordination between the California National Guard and law enforcement agencies across the nation," said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, Adjutant General for the California National Guard. "We stand ready to fully cooperate with civil and law enforcement agencies as these cases progress, ensuring that those who fall short of the California Guard's core values are held accountable."
These cases are the product of an ongoing investigation by the Army Criminal Investigative Command Major Procurement Fraud Unit, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Michael G. Tierney is prosecuting the Fresno cases and Assistant United States Attorney Matthew G. Morris is prosecuting the Sacramento cases.
The defendants indicted today are as follows:
- Joaquin Cuenca, 36, of San Diego, was a Recruiter and allegedly is responsible for causing $30,000 in fraudulent bonuses.
- Leonardo Pesta, 46, of Mountain View, was a Recruiter and allegedly is responsible for causing $20,000 in fraudulent bonuses.
- Nicholas Huerta, 32, of Fresno; was a Recruiter and allegedly is responsible for causing $25,000 in fraudulent bonuses.
- Jimmy Maldonado, 33, a Recruiter, and his wife, Mayra Garcia Maldonado, 27, a Recruiting Assistant, both of Fresno, are allegedly responsible for causing $40,000 in fraudulent bonuses.
- Sarah N. Nattress, 26, of Paradise, was a Recruiting Assistant and is allegedly responsible for $28,000 in fraudulent bonuses.
- Brian M. Kaps, 40, of Chico, was a Recruiting Assistant and is allegedly responsible for $16,000 in fraudulent bonuses.
- Richard C. Sihner, 52, of Elk Grove, was a Recruiting Assistant and is allegedly responsible for $95,000 in fraudulent bonuses. Sihner is also charged with one count of making false statements to a federal agent.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of wire fraud. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.