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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Utah Man Sentenced to Prison for Soliciting Gifts and Property Under False Pretenses

Former Hondo Resident Unlawfully Obtained Thousands of Dollars in Merchandise by Falsely Claiming Items were for the U.S. Army

ALBUQUERQUE – Michael Vernon Rupert, 44, of Cedar City, Utah, was sentenced this morning in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to a year and a day in prison for soliciting gifts and property under false pretenses.  Rupert will be on supervised release for three years after completing his prison sentence.  He also was ordered to pay $6,884.63 in restitution to the victims of his crimes.

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.  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 $35,000.00 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 $32,000.00 of merchandise before moving to Utah.

The criminal complaint further 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.

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.

On Feb. 21, 2014, Rupert pled guilty to the indictment without the benefit of a plea agreement.

This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of HSI with assistance from the Kane County (Utah) Sheriff’s Department, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Edwin Garreth Winstead, III, of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.

Updated June 17, 2015