CAMP CASEY, South Korea — Pvt. Bud L. Dwelly wanted revenge against the soldiers who betrayed him. When he couldn’t get it, he held the Army responsible.
After pleading guilty to grand theft and four other offenses at his court-martial Thursday, Dwelly made a sworn statement revealing his “business secret”: Goods are cheaper online.
“I advertised myself as someone who could get what [soldiers] need,” Dwelly said.
He began taking orders from soldiers for items, such as a $1,300 laptop, that he would purchase online with his own money with the intent to make a profit on the sale, he testified.
Dwelly said he trusted the soldiers and didn’t make contracts. But many left for their next assignments before completing their deals, leaving Dwelly $15,000 in debt, he said. An Army lawyer he consulted said there was little hope of recovering the cash.
On Dec. 18, Dwelly was hanging out with Pfc. Juan Antonio Rivera.
“[Rivera] asked me if I wanted to ‘do’ the Iron Triangle, and I said all right,” Dwelly testified.
Dwelly and Rivera pushed open a door of the Camp Hovey club together. They found two safes and carted them on a dolly to an abandoned barracks.
The next day, they discovered one of the safes was unlocked. Rivera — who officials say will likely be court-martialed as well — bought a tool at the post exchange to bust open the other safe. The two split the $15,000 inside the safes, Dwelly said.
“I did it out of anger toward the Army because nobody would help me,” Dwelly said. “I shouldn’t have done what I did. But in my point of view, I was going crazy.”
During the next few days, wanted posters featuring a grainy video camera picture and Dwelly’s physical description went up around post.
By March, he still hadn’t been caught — and he wanted more money.
So he put a case of Meals, Ready to Eat from his battery’s supply room up for auction on eBay.
The winning bidder e-mailed Dwelly on March 8 asking if they had a deal, and Dwelly replied that they did. That winning bidder was an Army criminal investigator, and Dwelly soon found himself being questioned.
Investigators searched his barracks room and found $2,000 cash wrapped in paper used in the Iron Triangle’s safe, said Capt. Henry Opolot, Dwelly’s battery commander. They also found one of the wanted posters, the clothing described in the poster and weapons ranging from an air pistol to brass knuckles.
Dwelly confessed his crimes.
He deserves credit for that, though what he did was “very stupid,” said his father, acting Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Dwelly, who testified by phone from a base in Hawaii.
“I’ve always put the Army first, even before my family,” Lawrence Dwelly said. “And that’s why him being here is partially my fault.”
Bud Dwelly said he joined the Army primarily to please his father.
“[His approval] was the most important thing in the world, because I’m never good at anything,” he said.
Dwelly’s duty assignment on the peninsula allowed him to see his South Korean mother, Lori Kim, who lives in Seoul. When she had financial difficulties last June, her son gave her $8,000 — all the money he had at the time, she testified.
Dwelly was able to do so because he had so few bills of his own to pay, he said. He said he grew to love the Army, in part because of its financial benefits.
Prosecutor Capt. Seamus Barry wasn’t convinced. He asked military Judge Col. Gregory Gross to give Dwelly seven years in prison, out of a maximum 11 years and six months. Instead Dwelly got 42 months of confinement, forfeiture of all pay and a bad-conduct discharge.
“For someone who loves the Army this much, he sure has a poor way of showing it,” Barry said.
The case ...
Name: Pvt. Bud L. Dwelly
Unit: 2nd Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery, Headquarters Battery
Crimes: Grand larceny, unauthorized absence, attempted sale of government property, disobedience, discrediting conduct
Sentence: 42 months’ confinement, forfeiture of all pay, bad-conduct discharge
— Erik Slavin