The soldiers embezzled a combined total of $90,000 between July 2009 and January 2010 from the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, a fund for military commanders to pay for reconstruction during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to a report delivered to Congress last week.
The men bought $1,000 money orders with the stolen cash from Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province, and then sent the money back to their spouses, deposited it into USAA bank accounts and paid down credit card balances, according to court filings.
Chief Warrant Officer Deric Harper, Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Arthur Cook, and Sgt. 1st Class Barry Lee Walls will each serve three years on probation, must forfeit $40,000 and pay $40,000 in criminal restitution.
A service official told Army Times on background that the three soldiers received an honorable retirement, an honorable discharge and a general discharge, but could not disclose which soldier had which due to privacy restrictions.
All three soldiers were Green Berets and were out of the service by the end of 2016, the official added.
Other unindicted co-conspirators were identified as J.C. and B.W in a June 2014 indictment.
Harper, who was the officer-in-charge of the team, told J.C. and B.W in August 2012 that “if someone doesn’t talk, it stays white collar," and that the federal agents would “have to go off paperwork," according to the indictment.
The soldiers were sentenced June 11 in the Eastern District of North Carolina. All three soldiers were previously assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“We are aware of the recent report to Congress by the Special Inspector General that former 3rd Special Forces Group members were sentenced for their involvement in criminal activities that occurred in 2009 in Afghanistan,” Army Capt. Rick Dickson, a 3rd Group spokesman, said in a statement.
“All of these soldiers have been either discharged or retired from the military,” Dickson added. “Their actions do not reflect the ethics and professionalism of 3rd Special Forces Group, past or present.”
The Defense Department has until March to submit an evaluation of U.S. Special Operations Command's ethics and professionalism standards and programs.
In addition to tapping into reconstruction funds, the soldiers were siphoning money from Operation Funds, which is money allotted to buy mission critical items that cannot be obtained through the military supply system. The soldiers also stole money from 1208 funds that are intended to support counterterrorism operations, according to court filings.
All members of the team performed assignments that required them to disburse the classified funds.
As the officer-in-charge, Harper served as the initiating officer who signed the purchase requests submitted to obtain funding from the finance office.
Walls was the paying agent for the 1208 funds, responsible for safeguarding the money and paying contracted locals, while Cook was charged with contracting locals for various mission requirements, according to court records.
Beginning around July 2009, the conspirators withdrew federal funds in the form of Afghan currency, known as Afghanis, from the finance office at Bagram Airfield.
The Afghanis were taken to FOB Fenty in Jalalabad, where a portion of the funds were converted and shared among the soldiers.
The soldiers worked to falsify receipts to conceal the amount of money stolen, which were then submitted to financial officials. The stolen cash was later converted to U.S. dollars and used to purchase money orders from the U.S. Postal Service to be sent back home.
The soldiers also carried money orders and cash back to the United States.
Harper and Walls at one point made false statements to federal law enforcement agents, saying that they purchased between $25,000 and $35,000 in money orders with gambling winnings.
The gambling winnings excuse was also used by B.W, according to the court filings.