ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Four Colorado National Guardsmen are targets of a nationwide investigation into fraudulent recruiting bonuses.
On Tuesday a United States Senate subcommittee learned that $29 million in bad bonuses were paid out.
National Guard units across the country were struggling to meet recruiting quotas during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the Army set up a bonus program for soldiers to refer friends and family to enlist. However, not all the bonuses ended up where they were supposed to go.
“We now know that thousands of service members, friends and family members may have participated in schemes to defraud the government they served and the taxpayers,” said Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.
In Colorado several guardsmen have now been charged, including 25-year-old Christopher Clark, 38-year-old Jerry Gerome Wilson and 29-year-old Luke Peelgrane. The amounts they are accused of stealing vary up to $43,000.
Documents filed in federal court also indicate that guardsman Thurman Foster is awaiting sentencing after agreeing to pay back $31,000 in recruiting bonus he didn’t deserve.
“It’s unfortunate the system is clouded with the alleged fraud. It’s not in keeping with the values of certainly honesty and integrity that we hold very sacred,” said Colorado National Guard Sgt. Major Rob Lawrence.
Three of those charged in Colorado allegedly obtained information from a recruiting office in Thornton and signed up for bonuses for people they didn’t recommend to enlist.
“Ninety-eight-point-five percent of our great soldiers and some of the greatest patriots in America did the right things and it was some dunderheads, about 1.5 percent that caused this problem,” said former director of the Army National Guard Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn.
In many of the cases prosecutors maintain those receiving the bonuses didn’t have any contact with the enlistees that they received credit for recruiting.
Greg Graf, the attorney for guardsman Luke Peelgrane, told CBS4 his client was in touch and is not guilty of the charges that have been filed.
The investigation is not the first dealing with a recruiting scandal tied to the Army. In 2005 CBS4 revealed fraud by active duty Army recruiters that were instructing potential enlistees to create phony diplomas and teaching them how to beat drug tests.