An Army Reserve colonel who lied about his living situation to receive lodging expenses pled guilty to defrauding the Army on Tuesday.

Col. Reece Dennis Roberts, 53, admitted in a Utah federal courtroom to making a fraudulent claim against the United States, conspiracy to defraud the United States, theft of government property, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

He pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining more than $60,000 after deceiving his way into temporary change of station entitlements that are intended to assist individuals who have to travel lengthier distances to reach their military base.

When a soldier is required to temporarily change their station, if their home is outside commuting distance from their military base, then they are entitled to a larger allowance for meals and room and board than those who live within commuting distance, according to court documents.

Roberts served on active duty from June 2020 to July 2021 at Fort Douglas, Utah, with the 76 Operational Response Command, the U.S. Army Reserve’s Center for Defense Support of Civilian Authorities.

He listed his primary address as an out-of-state one in a bid to maximize the amount of financial benefits he could get out of the temporary change of station entitlement program, court documents say.

Roberts qualified for a family separation allowance as a result of the out-of-state residence, as it allowed him to claim that his temporary change of station was separating him from his familial dependents.

He also forged lease agreements for a house he never lived in and received $3,700 per month in lodging reimbursements, according to the Department of Justice.

He allegedly recruited another individual to take part in the scheme so that the individual could receive the rent payments for the property Roberts claimed he was living in, only to deposit it back into his bank account using Venmo, the Justice Department said in a press release.

“This type of deceit and misconduct is unacceptable for service members at any rank, but it is particularly disheartening when committed by a field grade officer during a national emergency,” said U.S. Attorney Trina A. Higgins of the District of Utah in a statement provided to the Department of Justice.

Roberts is set to be sentenced on Aug. 29, 2024.

The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division investigated the case.

Riley Ceder is an editorial fellow at Military Times, where he covers breaking news, criminal justice and human interest stories. He previously worked as an investigative practicum student at The Washington Post, where he contributed to the ongoing Abused by the Badge investigation.

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