YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — An airman assigned to the 374th Communications Squadron with more than 20 years of military service was sentenced last month to a year in prison after being convicted of larceny and making false official statements in a basic allowance for housing fraud scheme, base officials said.

Master Sgt. Dennis R. Savard, 43, also was given a bad-conduct discharge and reduced in rank to airman basic during his general court-martial.

Savard committed BAH fraud between 2004 and 2007 by claiming Laguna Hills, Calif., as his family’s residence while they were separated, said Lt. Col. Mark W. Milam, the 374th Airlift Wing’s staff judge advocate. During that time, he was stationed at Osan Air Base, South Korea, and Yokota.

"His family actually resided in the Philippines," Milam said. "[He] stole over $80,000 from the government over a span of three years."

BAH rates vary by locale, but the difference can amount to thousands of extra dollars in undeserved payments. It begins on paperwork, with a servicemember providing a false address and ZIP code from an area with a high BAH rate.

This type of fraud can occur anywhere military members serve tours unaccompanied by family. That covers the majority of airmen stationed in South Korea, mostly at Osan and Kunsan air bases.

"This was a complicated case because the paper trail went into four different countries and several of the key witnesses were located in the Philippines and refused to come to Japan," Milam said.

He said prosecutors worked with the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Philippine government to obtain documents and witness testimony via depositions.

"A message here, besides not to steal or lie, is that the U.S. Air Force is willing to overcome any obstacle to ensure that justice is done," he added.

Savard put in his retirement paperwork after the allegations surfaced, according to Milam. But that was put on hold because of the pending court-martial.

The bad-conduct discharge means Savard won’t receive any retirement pay and his Veterans Affairs benefits will be limited, Milam said.

Savard was never in custody prior to the court-martial.

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