Keeping quiet about divorce proves costly to Kadena airman
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — A senior airman was sentenced to 60 days in the brig and a bad-conduct discharge here Thursday after pleading guilty to stealing almost $10,000 from the government in unearned housing allowances.
Senior Airman Shawn T. Clohessy, 25, assigned to the 18th Maintenance Operations Group, pleaded guilty at a special court- martial to charges of larceny, making false official statements and failing to obey a lawful order.
During the one-day trial, Clohessy admitted he failed to inform officials at his previous base, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, when he was divorced in December 2003. He continued to collect the basic allowance for housing at the rate granted to servicemembers with dependents and then continued the fraud when he transferred to Okinawa in December 2005.
In all, he received $9,758.12 in fraudulent allowance money.
During the trial Clohessy said he knew he had to report the divorce within 30 days of the decree, but he decided not to tell anyone.
“Initially I did not do it because I didn’t want to move into the dorms,” he told Col. Steven Hatfield, the military judge. “Then later, I was afraid I’d get into trouble if anyone found out.”
According to evidence, when he transferred to Okinawa on an unaccompanied tour he signed paperwork stating he was still married and that his wife had moved from Kansas to Baltimore. That entitled him to an even greater allowance.
“When I came to Kadena I knew the Air Force believed I was still married, but I felt I had passed the point of no return and would get into trouble if I reported it,” Clohessy said. “I let things get out of hand.”
He said his “sole request” was to stay in the Air Force.
The prosecution said he did not deserve to remain.
Clohessy did not let any Air Force officials know he was divorced until last May, when he decided to remarry and had to present his divorce decree to the finance office, said Capt. Clayton O’Connor, the lead prosecutor in the case.
He pointed out that Clohessy even had maintained with his supervisor at work on Kadena that he still was married.
“He lied to his unit and his supervisor, all the while he was stealing money from the government,” O’Connor said. “This is not just some airman who was trapped into circumstances.”
Even though Clohessy has since repaid the government the money, O’Connor argued he should be discharged.
Hatfield’s sentence included busting Clohessy to E-1, the bad-conduct discharge and four months’ confinement. However, the terms of a pre-trial agreement limited confinement to 60 days.