Bad trip? Sergeant major tried for travel fraud, lyin
May 12, 2007
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A court-martial panel began deliberating Thursday evening after three days of testimony concerning whether the sergeant major for 7th Communications Battalion defrauded the government.
Sgt. Maj. Arthur Simpson, 42, is accused of lying to his commanding officer, submitting false claims and misusing his government travel card.
Simpson, who has 23 years of service, is charged with 14 violations: two charges of failing to obey a lawful general order; two charges of dereliction of duty; one charge of making false statements; three charges of wrongful appropriation; four charges of fraud and two charges of obtaining services under false pretenses.
According to the government, Simpson lied about being ordered by doctors to go to San Diego for a medical consultation and lied about doctors there saying he must have surgery for a life-threatening condition and it was necessary for his family to be there when he did.
He then filed travel vouchers for all the expenses for the trip to San Diego, which totaled more than $16,000.
The government also said Simpson used his government travel card for personal use, such as for paying tolls on the Okinawan expressway and withdrawing hundreds of dollars of cash.
Simpson’s lawyer, Ken Martin, said there was no intent to scam the government. Instead a “series of mistakes” by many parties involved and “weird coincidences” led to a “perfect storm.”
According to testimony, Simpson was diagnosed early last year with a benign mass in his sinus cavity.
The battalion’s surgeon, Navy Lt. Tamra Middlesworth, testified that despite telling him there was no reason to believe the mass was cancerous, Simpson was very concerned given his family history of the disease.
She testified she told him she would e-mail a specialist at the naval hospital in San Diego to get his opinion. That doctor, Cmdr. Kevin Bach, concurred with Middlesworth.
She also testified Simpson told her he was uncomfortable with the staff at Lester Naval Hospital on Okinawa and wanted a second opinion. He said that he would be in the States on leave to visit family and see his son graduate from boot camp, and he asked her to set up a consultation with Bach.
According to the government, this is where the lying started.
Simpson’s commanding officer at the time, Lt. Col. Gregory Breazile, testified that Simpson told him he was ordered to see a specialist in San Diego. Then once in San Diego, Breazile said, Simpson called him and said the mass in his sinus was potentially life-threatening because of a cancer risk and he required surgery and that doctors said his family should be there.
As a result, Breazile testified, Simpson’s wife and three children were flown at government expense to San Diego.
Bach testified that he told Simpson the mass was not cancer, but said Simpson wanted a biopsy done on the mass and to have it removed with surgery.
Bach testified it was a “routine, elective procedure” and that he never told Simpson his family needed to be there.
Breazile testified that normally there would be a Red Cross message but he said he trusted his sergeant major.
The defense argued that Simpson truly believed he had cancer and that he didn’t mindfully deceive his commanding officer or plot to get the government to pay for a vacation.
Lt. Cmdr. Robert Marietta, a psychiatrist who treated Simpson, testified that Simpson can tell the difference between right and wrong, but has narcissistic personality traits and was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, both of which would lead him to overreact and obsessively think about the possibility of cancer.
The panel was scheduled to continue deliberations Friday.