Money misuse to cost two airmen in S. Korea
TAEGU, South Korea — Two U.S. airmen in South Korea face bad-conduct discharges in unrelated cases after an Air Force court found them guilty of trying to beat the military out of thousands of dollars.
One Air Force sergeant just three months shy of 20 years’ service will see his career end without retirement benefits after he was convicted of lying about his stateside address to get a bigger housing allowance; the other airman pleaded guilty to writing bad checks and misusing his government travel card.
In the first case, Master Sgt. Clarence U. Lott of the 51st Maintenance Group at Osan Air Base pleaded guilty to submitting a false official document, larceny of housing allowances and obstructing justice, according to the Air Force.
An Air Force judge at the base sentenced Lott to a bad-conduct discharge, which punitively removes Lott from the Air Force with no retirement benefits or pay. Lott had 19 years and 9 months of service at the time of his May 13 conviction. Servicemembers become eligible for retirement after 20 years of service.
Col. David Brash of Yokota Air Base, Japan, presided over the proceeding after Lott chose to have his case tried by a military judge.
Prosecutors accused Lott of stealing about $19,000 in excess allowances by lying about where his dependents lived. Lott, they said, submitted a false housing allowance form claiming his dependents lived in San Francisco when they actually lived in Arizona.
After he realized the scam was about to be uncovered, according to the Air Force, Lott contacted a senior airman he had supervised at a prior duty station and asked him to give bogus information to investigators.
Lott asked the airman, whose sister lived in San Francisco, to provide a false San Francisco address, and wanted the sister to claim that Lott’s daughter was living with her in that city, said Air Force Lt. Col. Roger Bruce, staff judge advocate with the 51st Fighter Wing.
But the senior airman instead reported Lott’s request to authorities, the Air Force said.
In the other case, Airman 1st Class Francisco Lira of the 51st Communications Squadron pleaded guilty May 20 to writing about $7,200 worth of bad checks and improperly charging $4,200 on his government travel card, the Air Force said.
According to the Air Force, Lira defrauded the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Osan Enlisted Club, both on base, and the Gateway Enlisted Club at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He was accused of writing 59 checks over several months from an account that lacked funds to pay them, the Air Force said. Lira had been at Lackland on temporary duty and leave, Bruce said.
Lira, according to the Air Force, also used his government travel card for unofficial, personal purposes, then intentionally failed to pay the debt.
He also opted to be tried by a judge. Brash found him guilty of all charges and sentenced him to reduction in rank to airman basic, four months’ confinement and a bad-conduct discharge. Lira was transferred immediately to the Army confinement facility at Camp Humphreys near Pyongtaek.
The Air Force will recoup the funds from both the checks and travel card through involuntary allotments of Lira’s military pay, Bruce said.