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Air National Guard colonel charged with 110 criminal counts

An Air National Guard colonel who had the run of the 171st Air Refueling Wing and a Guard contractor from Maryland are accused of engaging in a complex fraud scheme that may have earned them as much as $300,000 in illicit payments.

Air National Guard Col. Gerard Mangis, 59, of Shaler was arrested Wednesday, one day after being indicted on 110 counts of conspiracy, honest service wire fraud, false claims against the United States and theft of government property.

A former National Guard Bureau civilian financial analyst, Robert St. Clair, 50, of Bel Air, Md., was charged with 10 counts of conspiracy, false claims and theft of government property. As part of the scheme, Col. Mangis made Mr. St. Clair a tech sergeant attached to the 171st, according to federal prosecutors.

Sgt. St. Clair is expected to be ordered to court in coming days.

At a news conference Wednesday, U.S. attorney David Hickton said that in a time of belt-tightening in the federal government "it is particularly repugnant that someone would steal from the United States Air Force in a manner such as this."

Col. Mangis appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Mitchell, but neither he nor his attorney, Charles Porter Jr., commented.

Col. Mangis was a technician and later comptroller of the 171st, based at Pittsburgh International Airport.

The indictment alleges a complex set of trades of favors and influence between Col. Mangis and Sgt. St. Clair. The sergeant got military pay without military work, preservation of a national security clearance and access to Air Force benefits. The colonel got credit for work and special training that he did not undergo, which increased his pension, according to Mr. Hickton.

According to the indictment, Sgt. St. Clair served as a civilian contractor at the Guard's Resource Integration Division, headquartered at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. His duties include distribution to Guard members nationwide of "workdays" -- eight-hour allotments of time, with resulting payment, issued to perform required military duties.

Due to personal financial problems that culminated in a bankruptcy, Sgt. St. Clair's security clearance was threatened, which could have cost him his job. So his friend Col. Mangis, according to the charges, helped Sgt. St. Clair to maintain his security clearance by giving him a "no show" job, for which he was not physically qualified, at the 171st Air Refueling Wing.

Sgt. St. Clair's position at the 171st was as an enlisted guardsman working as a contracting specialist. The job automatically preserved his security clearance.

According to the indictment, 633 duty rosters then were falsified on behalf of Sgt. St. Clair, and he was given "false passing scores" on his physical fitness examinations at Col. Mangis' direction.

Mr. Hickton said that Col. Mangis moved his friend around the books of the 171st "in order to perpetuate St. Clair's fraudulent enlistment."

In return, Sgt. St. Clair gave Col. Mangis "workdays" credits for special training that the colonel "used to claim excessive active and inactive duty military pay," according to the charges. Col. Mangis regularly exceeded the allowable annual amount of work time, "thereby also significantly increasing his military pay," according to the indictment.

Often, according to Mr. Hickton, Col. Mangis would be paid for both civilian and military work at the 171st for the same time period, as a result of Sgt. St. Clair's acts.

Mr. Hickton said the investigation continues, and that the amount the two gained from the scheme could reach $300,000.

Col. Mangis, according to the charges against Sgt. St. Clair, also circumvented military procurement procedures to buy computers, printers, scanners, copiers and GPS equipment. Col. Mangis had the equipment mailed to Sgt. St. Clair's home, according to the charges.

Col. Mangis also is accused of telling subordinates to run personal errands for him, including changing the oil in his personal vehicle, installing a basketball hoop at his home and repairing a toilet at his home, during military and non-military time.

Col. Mangis, who once earned $128,000 annually with the Guard, is still assigned to the 171st as a reservist, though he has been excused from all duties since April 2011. The investigation began in 2010.

Sgt. St. Clair has resigned from the Guard, according to prosecutors.

Neither Sgt. St. Clair nor his defense attorney, Tina Miller, could be reached for comment.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in January that the Air Force completed a financial fraud investigation into Col. Mangis and had turned it over to the Justice Department.

Col. Mangis at the time was working as a fiscal/purchasing manager for Allegheny County, earning $44,860. He resigned the day the story was published.

Mr. Hickton said the investigation has widened to include unspecified other activities and individuals at the 171st.

Assistant U.S. attorney Gregory Melucci, who specializes in fraud, is handling the prosecution.

The investigation developed after the Air Force began looking into allegations of double-dipping by Air Force pilots in California. The pilots were accused of boosting their salaries by signing up for extra "alert duty," violating federal law and military regulations prohibiting collecting more than one payday on the same calendar day.
 

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