Lester Middle School is a Department of Defense Education Activity facility on Camp Lester, Okinawa.

Lester Middle School is a Department of Defense Education Activity facility on Camp Lester, Okinawa. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

An appeal by an Okinawa-based Marine seeking to reduce his four-year jail sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 2021 has been denied by a military court.

Lance Cpl. Mason Armao was court-martialed and sentenced in January 2022 to four years confinement, reduction in rank to private and a dishonorable discharge for luring the middle-schooler to a hotel room on Okinawa for sex, according to a decision issued Friday by a three-judge panel with the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.

The primary claim made in Armao’s appeal was that his sentence was disproportionate to that of Lance Cpl. Joseph Fahey, one of several Marines involved in a scheme to lure girls from their middle school on Camp Lester for sex.

While both Armao and Fahey were sentenced to four years, Armao argued in the appeal that the sentence was unfair because he pleaded guilty to only two specifications of violating Article 120b in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, while Fahey pleaded guilty to three specifications of the same offense.

Article 120b deals with rape or sexual assault of a child.

The appeals panel rejected the argument for several reasons, in part because the actions of the two men were so alike and so intertwined in their execution.

“The record could not reflect a case in which two co-accuseds have committed more closely related offenses,” the decision states.

In addition, Armao “voluntarily chose to plead guilty in accordance with the specific terms of an agreement he freely negotiated,” the decision states, noting that “we generally refrain from second guessing or comparing a sentence that flows from a lawful pretrial agreement.”

Armao was serving with Fahey and Lance Cpl. Roger Roache Jr. in 2021 while assigned to Ammunition Company, 3rd Supply Battalion, at a Marine Corps base in the northern part of Okinawa, the decision states.

In May 2021, Roache initiated “a scheme using multiple social media accounts to find children who might be interested in exchanging sex for money with a ‘sugar daddy,’” the decision states.

Roache lured a 13-year-old seventh-grade girl into sex using the scheme.

Roache soon drew several of his friends into the scheme after he solicited and received nude photos of three students from Lester Middle School, a Department of Defense Education Activity facility on Camp Lester.

On May 27, 2021, Roache, Fahey and Armao “met up with the victims at an off-base restaurant in sight of Lester Middle School,” the decision states.

They walked to a nearby hotel, where the Marines had previously booked three rooms. There, they plied the girls — two 13-year-olds and one 14-year-old — with mixed drinks of rum and pineapple juice. At some point they paired off, went into separate rooms and had sex.

The six later went out to eat, after which the girls departed and the Marines returned to one of the hotel rooms.

“Soon thereafter, a law enforcement official from the Provost Marshal’s Office entered the room and apprehended the three Marines,” the decision states without indicating how law enforcement had been alerted.

Roache was court-martialed and on Jan. 31, 2022, sentenced to 12 years in jail, reduced to the rank of private, forfeited all pay and allowances and given a dishonorable discharge.

author picture
Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.

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