Soldier in South Korea gets 5 months in debit card theft
April 12, 2008
CAMP CASEY, South Korea — Pvt. Sean Houston’s night on the town with his roommate’s debit card has now cost him a lot more than the tab.
On Thursday, military Judge Col. Donna Wright sentenced Houston to five months of confinement, a reduction in rank to E-1 and a bad-conduct discharge for grand larceny and two counts of absence without leave.
On Nov. 17, Houston spent more than $700 on a hotel room, food and drinks, courtesy of Pvt. Jeremy Tutt and his First Tennessee Bank card. The card had been lying on their shared barracks dresser.
Despite the theft, Tutt told the court he still considers Houston a friend and could proudly serve with him again.
“He’s made mistakes in his life,” Tutt said. “All of us get punished for some of the mistakes we make.”
Prosecutor Capt. Michael Sweetman disagreed with Tutt during sentencing arguments.
“That does not mean the Army, in this situation, should forgive [Houston’s] behavior,” Sweetman said.
The day after Houston’s spending spree at the Cima Hotel in Dongducheon, he called Tutt.
Houston said he was at Burger King and just saw a soldier use a debit card that looked like Tutt’s, according to court records.
Houston read back Tutt’s PIN, but in the wrong order. That, along with thumping background music that didn’t quite fit the Burger King profile, made Tutt suspicious.
Houston then told Tutt he’d be back shortly.
Instead, Houston spent some more money and didn’t come back until after curfew, but even his return was illegal.
According to court documents, Houston sneaked back on post by climbing over the fence near the Schoonover Bowl along the Casey-Hovey Cut. The fence is covered by barbed wire and lines a heavily wooded area.
Prosecutors said he was not caught, but admitted to the illegal entry during an earlier hearing.
During his unsworn statement, Houston introduced himself but then choked up.
Defense attorney Capt. Brigid Osei-Bobie read the rest of the statement, which apologized to the Army and all involved.
Houston faced a maximum of 12 months of confinement, a two-thirds pay forfeiture, bad-conduct discharge and reduction in rank to E-1.
At least 10 other soldiers have been sentenced to jail time at Camp Casey for stealing cash or debit cards since November 2006.
A Camp Humphreys soldier was sentenced for debit card theft in February and three Yongsan Garrison postal soldiers were convicted in January for conspiracy to steal debit cards.
Crime factsName: Pvt. Sean HoustonAge: 20Unit: Company E, 302nd Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry DivisionCharges: Article 86, unauthorized absence, two counts; Article 121, larceny more than $500; Article 123, forgery (dropped).Sentence: Five months of detention, reduction in rank to E-1, bad-conduct discharge.