PHOENIX — A prosecutor said Wednesday that numerous former and current members of the Arizona Air National Guard will likely pay back thousands of dollars and avoid trial over a scam to obtain expense pay.
Arizona Assistant Attorney General Michael Jette said he expects most of the accused members of the Tucson-based unit will take the “diversion agreement,” which would allow for the charges to be dropped. The individual members owe from $11,000 to upward of $100,000.
“Sometimes justice doesn’t need a conviction. As long as people take ownership and pay the money back, I’m happy,” Jette said.
Jette says the Guard encouraged the deal to avoid a prosecution process that could have taken up to four years with taxpayers footing the bill. According to Jette, the Arizona National Guard also wanted a settlement in order to get several of the defendants back to their missions. Their ability to work with security clearance has been put on hold since the litigation.
“Some of these guys are highly trained pilots. It takes a lot of money to train these guys,” Jette said.
Retired Col. Gregg Davies, a former commander of the 214 Reconnaissance Group, has already agreed to the same deal. Davies, who also started a debt reconciliation process with the Guard, must repay approximately $100,000. The charges against him included conspiracy, conducting an illegal enterprise, fraud, theft and money laundering. In the agreement, Davies admits knowing that the requests for reimbursements were improper.
Lee Stein, the attorney representing Davies, was not immediately available for comment. However, Stein told the Arizona Daily Star that he and Davis “are obviously pleased that the Arizona Attorney General’s Office ultimately agreed with us that the case should be dismissed.”
An indictment last year accused all 21 defendants of fraudulently collecting $1.4 million in additional living-expense pay from the federal government between November 2007 and September 2010. The eight officers and 13 enlisted men and women allegedly falsified their records and used fake home addresses in order to receive money meant for those traveling outside of their home regions for duty assignments. Some were getting as much as five times what they were entitled to.
“Active duty has clear-cut rules on reimbursement for expenses when you’re away from home. They took that rule book and tried to apply it to the Guard, a part-time workforce,” Jette said. “The rules just don’t go together because we’re talking about two different components of the military.”
The Arizona Guard has since put rules in place to prevent this practice from happening again, Jette said.