VILSECK, Germany — The self-described mother of a “21st Century Brady Bunch” will spend four months in confinement and be thrown out of the Army for forgery, housing allowance fraud, and bringing the Army into disrepute.

The 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment soldier, Staff Sgt. Chandra Kuffour, who has six biological kids and four stepchildren, pleaded guilty to the charges during a court-martial in Vilseck on Thursday.

Kuffour admitted that she forged a “memorandum of dependent status” from a fictitious battalion commander authorizing her stepchildren to live with her in Germany. The stepchildren, along with all but one of her biological children, live in Ghana with their unemployed father, a Ghanaian citizen, she said.

“I used a template for the letterhead and based (the document) on my understanding of command sponsorship. I had enough understanding to word the document so it could be used,” she said.

In June last year, Kuffour took the forged memorandum to the Czech Consulate in Munich in an effort to get Czech visas for the children.

“I was under the impression that the visas would allow them to get into Germany,” she said.

But the Czechs suspected something was amiss. An investigation was launched and the forged memorandum found its way back to then 5-158 commander Lt. Col. Guy Zero’s desk.

“The first indication of misconduct was when I was asked to verify the authenticity of a memorandum that represented an official capacity of the battalion commander signed ‘Mathew M. Guy’ with my official letterhead,” Zero, now 12th Aviation Brigade Rear Detachment commander, told the court.

Zero responded by removing Kuffour, who was pregnant at the time, from the personnel office while investigations proceeded, he said.

Sgt. 1st Class Scott Ferguson, rear detachment sergeant major for 5-158, said the loss of Kuffour from the personnel office at a time when the unit was reorganizing and preparing to deploy had a big impact.

“She had a lot of junior soldiers working for her who were looking for her good leadership, but she was no longer able to do that,” he said.

Investigators found that Kuffour wrongfully claimed $47,000 in Basic Allowance for Housing between March 2005 and May 2007, for her husband and children by stating they lived in East Orange, N.J., when they were elsewhere in the States or in Ghana, according to 1st Lt. Steven Ditomaso, commander of Company B, 106th Finance Detachment.

Several character witnesses from Kuffour’s church in Katterbach appeared for the defense during the trial’s sentencing phase.

James Esters, the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Command Sergeant Major, said she was an active congregation member.

“She’s remorseful. I can see the hurt in her as a mother and as a soldier. Yes she has made mistakes, but I think she can be rehabilitated,” he said.

Capt. Natalie Karelis, for the prosecution, said Kuffour abused her position in a job that required her to be trustworthy.

“She has 10 children who rely on her for support but the Army doesn’t have two military justice systems — one for those with sympathetic situations and one for those without. … She embarrassed the U.S. military,” she said.

Capt. Peter Juetten, for the defense, noted that Kuffour had almost paid back all of the BAH money she wrongfully obtained and added that it will be hard for her family to live together outside of Ghana after her guilty pleas.

The judge, Lt. Col. Edward O’Brien, sentenced Kuffour to two years’ confinement, reduction in rank to private and a bad-conduct discharge. However, under a pre-trial agreement, she will only serve four months’ confinement.

author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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 Now