RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Air Force investigators suspected a Ramstein-based airman of forging checks worth thousands of dollars before he left his family in Germany and was declared a deserter.

An Office of Special Investigations special agent testified during a pretrial hearing that Airman 1st Class Edward Hunter forged his wife’s name on five checks worth a total of $7,600 in June of last year.

The agent said during the Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury, that further investigation found that Hunter also wrote hundreds of dollars worth of bad checks to himself and cashed them at various exchange locations in the Kaiserslautern area.

Hunter, who is assigned to the 435th Logistics Readiness Squadron, faces charges of desertion, making a false official statement, larceny, forgery and writing bad checks. He faces from six months to as much as five years in jail if convicted of any of the charges.

Hunter left for approved leave shortly before Christmas, telling his wife that he was going to visit his family in Queens, N.Y. He was approved for leave from Dec. 20 through Dec. 26 last year. But he never returned.

Hunter’s commander, Lt. Col. Richard Moon, testified that he had no apprehensions about allowing Hunter to go on leave even though special agents were afraid he might not come back.

Hunter was to be separated from the Air Force, and Moon said he thought the airman was headed to the States to get his family ready for the move.

The squadron tried to contact Hunter but couldn’t find him. One of the numbers he left rang a chiropractor’s office in Queens, and New York police officers said the address he gave his unit didn’t exist.

He was declared a deserter instead of absent without leave because he was under investigation by special agents.

The Air Force forced his wife and their four children to leave their base apartment at Sembach Annex because he was declared a deserter. When a servicemember is ruled a deserter, the family loses all benefits and privileges and cannot live in base housing.

Hunter was arrested in Valdosta, Ga., by law enforcement authorities Jan. 20. He was sitting in a rental car he didn’t return.

Hunter’s wife, Dawn, is now living in Fayetteville, N.C., with her children but has been unable to find a job. She said her four children are in school but not doing well. All of them could be held back another year because they have missed so much school.

“They’re stressed out,” she said.

She wants her husband to be punished, but she worries about what she’ll do if he isn’t working and cannot provide for her and their children.

“In a way, he deserves to be punished,” she said. “But to what extent? I don’t know.”

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