Pacific edition, Thursday, July 5, 2007

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Marine private was sentenced to 120 days in the brig and handed a bad-conduct discharge Tuesday for cashing $5,000 worth of checks on a closed bank account and possessing a forged liberty card.

Pvt. Jonathan Ross, assigned to Marine Air Control Squadron 4 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, pleaded guilty to the charges as part of an agreement in which the prosecution withdrew a more serious charge of larceny.

According to testimony presented at the special court-martial, Ross wrote five checks for cash, at $1,000 each, at Community Bank on Okinawa from Jan. 2 to Jan. 11. The checks were from an account he had on Parris Island, S.C., before he was assigned to Okinawa in 2005.

He said he had about $1,200 in the stateside account, but had not known the account had been closed due to inactivity. But after learning the first check was not covered, he wrote four more.

Ross said he used the cash to pay outstanding bills on Okinawa. He was due to transfer to another assignment and wanted to ensure his debts were covered, he told the judge, Maj. Charles Hale.

“I knew there wasn’t enough money in my account to cover the checks,” Ross admitted. “I used the money to pay off loans. I wanted to pay all my bills so I wouldn’t have any legal hold placed on me.”

Ross also admitted he had been placed on restriction for an unrelated charge, but had a forged gold liberty card in his possession when he was processed into the brig.

Ross asked to remain in the Marine Corps, but Capt. Robert Eckert, the prosecutor in the case, said the bad-conduct discharge was necessary in Ross’ case since he had two previous nonjudicial punishment actions against him.

One case, from November 2006, involved running up a debt of more than $10,000 on a credit card with a $1,000 credit line, Eckert said.

“He has already been given a second chance,” Eckert said. “Marines don’t run up debts they can’t pay off.”

Defense lawyer Capt. Kristy Milton said her client still deserved a second chance.

“New Marines often have financial difficulties,” she said. “It’s not as if he was stealing money from someone else or a colleague, he stole from Community Bank.

“They knew where to find him. He wasn’t trying to get away scot-free,” she said, adding that Ross had taken out allotments from his pay to repay the bank.

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