Yokota airmen get jail time in furniture thefts
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Three Yokota staff sergeants were slapped with jail sentences after pleading guilty to stealing more than $25,000 of furniture at a Camp Zama Morale, Welfare and Recreation bazaar in August 2004.
Aaron Smoot of the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron; Jerry Hampton, a 374th Mission Support Squadron member; and Darrell Johnson of the 374th Medical Operations Squadron also were given bad-conduct discharges, reduced in rank to airman basic and told to forfeit all pay and allowances. They were tried in separate courts-martial from August to October.
All three airmen were convicted of larceny and conspiracy. Smoot and Hampton — who received prison terms of 18 months and a year, respectively — also admitted to forgery and making false official statements. Johnson’s confinement was set at nine months.
Capt. Ryan Lambrecht, who prosecuted the case against Hampton, said the incident occurred Aug. 29, 2004, during a bazaar at the U.S. Army base in Kanagawa Prefecture, about an 80-minute drive from Yokota. Smoot, Johnson and Hampton obtained receipts from 11 vendors for more than $25,000 in furniture, providing fake names and phone numbers.
They then used a bogus MWR stamp to mark the receipts as paid, he said, and picked up the furniture from vendors on a Camp Zama loading dock. After loading it on a 2-ton truck, they returned to Yokota and stashed the merchandise in their residences and the homes of three other servicemembers.
“They asked the three other sergeants to store the furniture temporarily as a favor,” Lambrecht said. “Those three did not know the furniture was stolen.”
When vendors discovered the theft, he added, they asked bazaar workers if they knew who might be responsible. Another Yokota sergeant who helped load some of the furniture onto the truck stepped forward, saying he recognized Smoot as the customer who purchased it.
The Army Criminal Investigation Division and Air Force Office of Special Investigations used that lead to track down Smoot the following day, according to Capt. David Westover, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesman. AFOSI brought the three suspects in for questioning and Smoot and Hampton gave false statements.
Westover said none of the airmen was placed in pretrial custody.