Army Reserve Col. Reece Roberts listens to a briefing on May 2021 at Camp Williams, Utah.

Army Reserve Col. Reece Roberts listens to a briefing on May 2021 at Camp Williams, Utah. (Sgt. 1st Class Brent C. Powell/U.S. Army Reserve photo)

An Army Reserve colonel pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Utah federal courtroom to charges that he stole more than $62,000 from the Army through a scheme to collect more housing allowance than he was owed 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.

In a hearing with Magistrate Judge Jared Bennett, Roberts pleaded guilty to all four counts against him: making a fraudulent claim against the U.S., conspiracy to defraud the U.S., theft of government property and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to online court records for the U.S. District Court of Utah.

Sentencing will occur Aug. 29 with Judge David Barlow, according to court records. Roberts could face forfeiture of money and property derived from the proceeds, according to the Justice Department.

After the court proceedings have been completed, the Reserve will review the case to determine whether Roberts will face disciplinary measures, said John Bradley, a spokesman for the Army Reserve.

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.

The case 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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