Marine gets 14 months, discharge for Okinawa ATM scam
Stars and Stripes March 24, 2006
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Marine was given a bad conduct discharge and 14 months in the brig Wednesday for stealing $3,000 in an ATM scam.
Under the terms of a plea agreement, Pfc. Ronald Horne, assigned to the 3rd Marine Division on Camp Hansen, pleaded guilty during a four-hour court-martial in Westpac Circuit Court to charges of larceny and not respecting a noncommissioned officer.
He admitted he stole the money during a three-day period in September by accessing his Community Bank account 12 times on base automated teller machines and making false deposits worth a total of $3,000, which were credited to his account immediately.
During the deposit transactions, he placed one check on a closed bank account and 11 empty deposit envelopes into the ATM machines.
He also admitted making about $1,000 in cash withdrawals from the machines and buying another $650 in merchandise from base exchanges based on the false deposits.
A supervisor at the Community Bank branch on Camp Foster on Wednesday declined to comment on the bank’s policy on processing deposits made at ATM machines.
In a statement made in the sentencing phase of his trial, Horne, from Pennsylvania, said he needed the money because his family was in financial trouble.
In an unemotional tone, he said his wife was pregnant with their first child at the time and he was several months late on a car loan and other bills.
However, Capt. Timothy Taylor, the prosecutor, said none of the money Horne took found its way back to Horne’s wife in Pennsylvania. The items bought with the debit card — computer disks, DVDs, an iPod and a backpack — were for Horne’s own use, Taylor said.
Taylor asked that Horne be sentenced to 24 months in prison and given a dishonorable discharge.
He pointed out that Horne had a record of not respecting his superiors and had received “numerous” nonjudicial punishments in the past.
The charge of not respecting a noncommissioned officer stemmed from a Jan. 6 incident on Camp Hansen in which Horne stormed out of a counseling session with his first sergeant and refused to obey a command to return. Since then, he’s been confined in the brig on Camp Hansen.
Capt. David Ahn, Horne’s defense attorney, said his client should serve no more than six months in the brig for his actions.
“Pfc. Horne is not an evil man,” he said during his closing argument, pointing out that Horne volunteered to make restitution in October. “That showed he was taking responsibility for his act.”
Horne’s wife, testifying by telephone from Pennsylvania, said the couple had a 4-month-old daughter he’s never seen and the family still was in bad financial shape.
“Any sentence in excess of six months would be detrimental to Pfc. Horne and his family,” Ahn said. “He needs to go back, get a job and support his family.”