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Former Green Beret pleads guilty to stealing government money while on Afghan deployment

A former Green Beret with 3rd Special Forces Group has pleaded guilty to playing a role in stealing an estimated $200,000 while deployed to Afghanistan from July 2009 to January 2010.

Former Sgt. 1st Class William Todd Chamberlain, 46, of Raleigh, North Carolina, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy and receiving stolen government property. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison followed by three years supervised release, a $500,000 fine and forfeiture of $40,000, according to a statement by federal prosecutors.

A sentencing hearing date has not yet been scheduled, according to court records.

Chamberlain was indicted in 2014 along with former soldiers Sgt. 1st Class Cleo Autry, Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Cook, Chief Warrant Officer Deric Harper and Sgt. 1st Class Barry Walls ⁠— all previously assigned to the same unit during the deployment.

“Theft of U.S. government funds in a war zone is a serious crime that weakens our national objectives in Afghanistan. The message of this case is loud and clear: SIGAR and our law enforcement partners will pursue justice — no matter how long it takes,” John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said in the statement.

The team used operational funds that were given to them to purchase “mission critical items” not available through military supply systems. The commander’s emergency response funds were earmarked for humanitarian projects for Afghan police such as roads, schools and medical clinics, according to court documents.

Prosecutors alleged that the five soldiers stole funds and falsified receipts to hide how much they’d taken.

They converted the stolen Afghan money to U.S. currency and then used the funds to purchase postal money orders, bought from military posts offices in Afghanistan. The group also sent cash to family members in the mail or carried it back with them when they returned to the United States.

Court records showed that the soldiers purchased money orders ranging from $500 to $2,600 on at least a dozen occasions. On a single day, Dec. 2, 2009, Autry and Walls purchased $82,000 in nine money orders.

All but Chamberlain pleaded guilty in 2014. Instead, he claimed he “needed access to classified information to defend himself.”

The four other co-defendants were sentenced in 2019 to three years’ probation, forfeit $40,000, and paid $40,000, according to court records. A government source told Army Times in August, when the other defendants were sentenced, that Cook, Walls and Harper had been discharged in 2016 and received honorable retirement.

A judge later ruled that classified information was not necessary for Chamberlain’s defense.

Chamberlain was the Non-Commissioned Officer-in-Charge and the Operational Detachment-Alpha team’s engineer at the time. Much of the funds were meant to be used on building and maintaining Forward Operating Base infrastructure.

Prosecutors alleged that as the team engineer, he would have known receipts were inflated. Three of his teammates testified that they “handed him large sums of U.S. currency” and saw him purchase postal money orders.

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