Camp Humphreys soldier’s slip-ups land him in jail for using stolen cards
October 21, 2007
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Two missteps by a Camp Humphreys soldier making purchases with other soldiers’ credit cards led Friday to a jail term and bad conduct discharge.
“I feel lower than dirt right now,” said Pvt. Gregory L. Benson, 19, of the 304th Signal Battalion, after pleading guilty to theft for pretending to be some of his fellow soldiers and paying with their credit cards. He used the cards to pay for everything from candy and combat boots to alcohol and an X-Box.
“I pretended that the cards were mine,” Benson testified Friday at Camp Humphreys about purchases that totaled more than $1,900.
The soldiers had not known Benson had their cards.
Benson, of Oakland, Calif., also pleaded guilty to underage drinking and to disobeying his commanding officer’s order restricting him to post.
The crimes occurred between April and August.
Along with Benson’s discharge, military judge Col. Donna M. Wright sentenced him to reduction to E-1, the military’s lowest pay grade, and 22 months in jail. But under a pre-trial agreement Benson will only spend 16 months behind bars.
Two instances of carelessness led to Benson’s court-martial.
The first came on April 19 when Benson, wearing his physical fitness uniform, used the credit card of Spc. Arleon Johnson to buy uniform items and other goods at the Camp Humphreys military clothing sales store.
Once Benson was outside, a store employee saw him throw something away.
The next morning that employee retrieved the card. Store staff contacted Johnson, who came to the store and retrieved his card.
Then, on April 24, Benson again appeared at the clothing sales store, this time wearing his uniform with “BENSON” visible on the name tag.
To pay for $67 in items, Benson gave the clerk the Military Star Card of another soldier: Pfc. Daniel Thomas.
Recognizing Benson from a week earlier, the clerk, suspicious, questioned Benson and then asked him to come to the manager’s office.
There, Benson said the card belonged to a friend who was allowing him to use it.
The staff phoned Benson’s unit. His first sergeant took charge of Benson and reported the matter to the military police.
When Benson came under investigation, his company commander restricted him to post. But Benson testified he went off post once that month and another time in August.
Benson also made fraudulent purchases at a shoppette, Popeye’s Chicken, Taco Bell and other businesses, some of them off-post.
Prosecutor Capt. Richard E. Gorini told the judge that Benson “violated a trust that the other soldiers place in each other” and showed “complete disregard for the chain of command” when he violated the restriction to post.
“How sorry is he?” Gorini asked. “He was sorry he got caught and he’s sorry now” that he’s facing punishment.
Defense lawyer Capt. Jack H. Ko said Benson “made his bed and now he has to sleep in it,” but said a discharge would be excessive.