Support our mission

KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — An Air Force staff sergeant was sentenced to one year in confinement, a bad-conduct discharge and reduction to E-1 during a special court-martial here Monday.

Staff Sgt. Emile Colon of the 8th Maintenance Squadron pleaded guilty to larceny and two specifications of signing false official documents in connection with the housing fraud case.

Colon told Col. Steven A. Hatfield, chief military judge for the Pacific Circuit from Yokota Air Base, Japan, that he knowingly provided false information for the location and dependency status of his wife when he was assigned to Kunsan in early May 2005.

His wife, an Army reservist, had been called to active duty in Germany, but Colon listed her as a dependent residing in Utah.

In October 2005, he filled out new paperwork stating that she had moved to the Boston area, which pays a high Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, rate.

Colon said he intentionally falsified the paperwork to get out of debt after his wife, who he claimed had gambling problems, twice cleaned out their savings account.

“By 2004, we were heavily in debt,” Colon told Hatfield. He was tried by judge only.

He admitted that while he knew what he was doing was wrong, he “chose not to tell the finance office.”

Last March, after he was confronted by a supervisor, Colon went to the finance office, filled out the correct paperwork and set up a system to pay back about $16,000 he had received fraudulently.

“I wish I could undo what I’ve done, but I can’t,” he said tearfully during an unsworn statement to the court. “I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in months.”

He said he loves being in the Air Force and hoped that Hatfield would allow him to stay in the service so he could make amends.

Prosecuting attorney Capt. Michael Grant argued for the harshest possible sentence, saying that Colon meant to steal from the government and U.S. taxpayers.

The staff sergeant made a “calculated decision month after month after month to steal,” Grant said.

A bad-conduct discharge was appropriate, Grant said, because there is “no room in the Air Force for someone who would throw his integrity out,” and the sentence would send a message to the community.

Defense attorney Capt. Andrew Griffin, co-counsel with Capt. Elizabeth Pullin, had asked for a lenient sentence.

“Integrity’s not just about what you do, it’s about how you respond to what you’ve done,” Griffin said.

He sought a reduction in rank and a two-month confinement, which would allow Colon to “start over” and pay back the money one month at a time.

A bad-conduct discharge, Griffin said, would be “kicking him while he’s down.”


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up