Third US soldier charged with trying to embezzle more than $1M from Afghanistan

By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: March 19, 2013

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A third soldier has been charged in connection to a 2009 scheme to embezzle more than a million dollars from Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Jason Begany was charged last month with converting property of another while being an employee of the United States and aiding and abetting in the same.

He was scheduled to be arraigned today in Raleigh.

Begany, Sgt. Edwin Vando and Sgt. Juan Lamboy Rivera are charged with embezzling nearly $1.3 million while deployed to Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan as part of the 82nd Finance Battalion

Vando and Rivera pleaded guilty in April 2011 and promised to testify against a third soldier who had not been indicted at that time. That soldier was Begany, according to court documents who identify him as the former noncommissioned officer in charge of the Camp Eggers finance office.

According to court documents, the soldiers worked with an Afghan interpreter to use their positions in the finance office to trick an Afghan company into paying them $1,297,050.31.

According to prosecutor Banu Rangarajan, the owner of Abdul Wasi Faquiri Co. Ltd. was tricked into wiring money to an Afghan bank after raising questions about whether he had been overpaid. The company provides military apparel and equipment for the Afghan national army and Afghan National Police, according to court documents.

An investigation by the finance office revealed the company had not been overpaid, but the unnamed coconspirator lied in a meeting with the company owner and arranged to have the money wired to a local bank, Rangarajan said.

An Afghan interpreter who worked in the finance office, identified only as "R.J." in court papers, withdrew $400,000 and carried it onto Camp Eggers in a backpack where it was split between the conspirators.

The crime, which occured in 2009, was investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Army Criminal Investigation Command and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Neither Vando nor Rivera have been sentenced.

All three soldiers face up to 10 years in prison followed by up to three years' supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.

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