Former soldier pleads guilty to receiving kickbacks for stolen fuel
The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette
A former soldier from Fountain pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to accepting bribes for diverting military fuel in Afghanistan.
Spc. Stephanie Charboneau, 34, helped oversee fuel shipments from Forward Operations Base Fenty in Jalalabad in 2010 and used her position to help a theft ring steal 90 truckloads of fuel using bogus paperwork, federal prosecutors said. In return, Charboneau, who was then serving with Fort Carson's 4th Brigade Combat Team, got kickbacks for creating the phony documents.
"Charboneau's plea is the fourth guilty plea arising from this investigation of fuel thefts at FOB Fenty," the Justice Department said in a news release.
Fort Carson's Sgt. Christopher Weaver, also of 4th Brigade, pleaded guilty to fuel theft in the case last year.
Last month, Jonathan Hightower, an contract worker in Afghanistan and Fort Campbell, Ky.-based Sgt. Bilal Kevin Abduallah also pleaded guilty to theft charges in the case.
Fenty, near the Khyber Pass leading to Pakistan, was a fuel hub for American forces in the region. The vast quantities of scarce fuel also made Fenty a target for corruption. Prosecutors say the theft ring took $1.5 million in fuel.
"Fuel is 'liquid gold' in Afghanistan - easy to steal, easy to sell on the black market," an inspector general's report on fuel theft released this year said. "Buyers of stolen fuel can be local gasoline stations, roadside vendors, U.S. contractors without access to military fuel depots, or Afghan insurgents."
It was unclear how the fuel stolen from Fenty was used.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and Army investigators teamed up to tackle the theft ring. The case was prosecuted by the Department of Justice's Fraud Division.
Charboneau pleaded guilty in Denver Thursday to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one substantive count of bribery.
She faces a maximum of 20 years behind bars at a December sentencing hearing.