Kunsan airman sentenced to nine months for housing fraud
July 15, 2006
KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — A senior airman was sentenced to nine months confinement and a bad-conduct discharge for stealing about $7,100 in housing allowances that he didn’t rate.
Senior Airman Antonio M. Jackson of Kunsan’s 8th Maintenance Squadron pleaded guilty to two specifications of signing false official documents and a larceny charge. He pleaded not guilty to one specification of signing a false official document.
Col. Steven A. Hatfield, chief military judge of the Pacific Circuit from Yokota Air Base, Japan, also ordered that Jackson be reduced to the lowest military rank, E-1.
Jackson told the court that when he was on leave in the United States in 2005, he married his girlfriend in Alabama. But when he returned to Kunsan after the vacation, he filled out documents on Oct. 12 stating that his wife was living in San Francisco, which pays one of the highest housing allowances. After local leaders warned of a crackdown on housing fraud, Jackson filled out new paperwork stating that his wife had moved from San Francisco to Montgomery, Ala., on Jan. 2, 2006.
“I knew that it was wrong and that I could get into a lot of trouble,” he told Hatfield. “I’m ashamed to have stolen it.”
He said he decided to apply for the higher housing allowances because “I was not financially secure enough” to support his wife.
He asked the judge for leniency and to consider his marriage when deciding a sentence.
“I know I deserve to be punished, but my family does not,” he said.
Kunsan prosecutor Capt. John Page argued for the nine-month jail term, stating that since Jackson helped Air Force investigators identify two other airmen accused of housing fraud — and since he agreed to testify in another court-martial — he didn’t deserve the harshest sentence of a year in jail.
But he said the bad-conduct discharge was necessary, especially given that Jackson wasn’t a “stellar troop” who had made just one mistake. He pointed to letters of counseling and reprimand that supervisors had given the senior airman.
Defending Jackson was Capt. Michael Bibbo, area defense counsel from Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.
Bibbo told the judge that a long jail sentence and bad-conduct discharge would affect Jackson’s strained marriage.
“A marriage under these circumstances is going to be fragile,” Bibbo said.
While his client recognizes that he deserves to be punished, anything more than two or three months confinement is too much, Bibbo said.
Jackson is the second Kunsan airman convicted this week of housing allowance fraud.
On Monday, Hatfield sentenced Staff Sgt. Emile Colon to one year in jail, a bad-conduct discharge and reduction to E-1. Colon fraudulently received more than $16,000 while he was on an unaccompanied tour at Kunsan.
He told the Air Force his wife was living in Utah and in the Boston area while she actually was serving as a reservist in Germany.
Both Jackson and Colon will serve their sentences at military confinement facilities in the United States.
Fraud cases latest of several in S. Korea
KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Two more Air Force troops are on their way to jail — and out of the service — this week after having been found guilty in separate courts-martial.
Both succumbed to the temptation of seemingly easy cash by fraudulently filling out basic-allowance-for-housing paperwork. In the paperwork, they lied about where their families were living so they could receive a bigger housing allowance than was due.
Several airmen in South Korea have faced the same charges this year. Air Force officials said earlier this year that while they weren’t facing an “epidemic,” even one case is undesirable.
The Air Force Audit Agency audited South Korea-based airmen’s BAH claims in late 2005. They looked for troops serving in remote assignments who reported that their families continue to live in or have moved to a high-cost area, officials said.
Typically, officials said, the fraudulent cases involved dependents supposedly living in San Francisco and San Diego. They said airmen filing such false claims can realize up to $2,000 more than they actually rate in a monthly housing allowance.
Sometimes the audits can be conducted with a simple phone call. If needed, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations can be called in on the case.
— Stars and Stripes