Army Reserve Col. Reece Roberts listens to a commander at Camp Williams, Utah, in 2021.

Army Reserve Col. Reece Roberts listens to a commander at Camp Williams, Utah, in 2021. (Brent C. Powell/U.S. Army Reserve)

A Utah-based Army Reserve colonel has been indicted by a federal grand jury for charges that he stole more than $62,000 from the Army through a property rental scheme while on orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

Col. Reece Dennis Roberts, 53, lied about his and his family’s primary residence, fabricated a lease and property listing documents, and submitted more than a dozen fake vouchers to the military between June 2020 and July 2021, according to court documents.

Roberts, an Iraq War veteran who first entered the Reserve in 1991, received orders to serve on active duty with the 76th Operational Response Command at Fort Douglas, and then changed his primary address to one outside of Utah at which neither he nor his family lived, according to court documents.

He actually lived in Herriman, a town about 40 minutes from his duty station.

A general engineer, Roberts worked with a unit that was tasked with providing support to state and local officials, first responders and federal agencies during the pandemic that began in March 2020, according to his service record and the unit’s website.

Using the fake out-of-state address made Roberts eligible for family separation pay, reimbursements for housing, meals and incidentals, according to court documents.

Through the fake lease agreement, Roberts claimed $3,700 each month for rent, which he or an unnamed accomplice sent through a Venmo account to a third party, who was also in on the scheme.

Roberts is charged with various federal crimes, including filing a fraudulent claim against the U.S., conspiring to defraud the U.S., theft of government property, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to court documents.

“This type of deceit and misconduct is unacceptable for service members at any rank, but it is particularly disheartening when committed by a field grade officer during a national emergency,” said U.S. Attorney Trina Higgins of the District of Utah.

Roberts’ initial court appearance on the indictment is March 13 in downtown Salt Lake City. He was indicted Feb. 21.

If convicted, Roberts could face forfeiture of money and property derived from the proceeds, according to the Justice Department.

The indictment is part of an ongoing effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to address military pay fraud that occurred during the coronavirus pandemic with the support of the Defense Department inspector general and the Army Criminal Investigation Division.

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Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

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