Army employee charged with stealing $100 million from fund for military children
Stars and Stripes December 7, 2023
An Army civilian employee in Texas is accused in a federal indictment of stealing more than $100 million from a fund meant to help military children.
Janet Yamanaka Mello, 57, was indicted Wednesday in a San Antonio district court on 10 total criminal counts including mail fraud, engaging in a monetary transaction using criminal proceeds and aggravated identity theft.
Federal prosecutors say Mello used her position as a financial program manager for Child, Youth and School services at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio to steer 4-H Military Partnership Grant program funds into a shell company she controlled.
The grant program helps military children participate in projects with 4-H, which is a traditionally farming-focused network of youth organizations administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Mello founded Child Health and Youth Lifelong Development in 2016 in order to take grant money from the program, the indictment alleged.
Prosecutors said her business didn’t provide services to military members and their families, as Mello said it would.
The $100 million in grant funds awarded to the business over the past six years instead went toward high-end jewelry, clothing, vehicles and real estate, prosecutors said.
Mello also is accused of repeatedly falsifying the digital signature of one of her supervisors, the indictment said.
Each of the five fraud charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, with the four spending charges carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years each, and the aggravated identity theft charge mandating at least two years.
Mello is scheduled for an initial court appearance Dec. 14.