- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indiana National Guard’s former recruitment commander faces federal charges that he solicited kickbacks from a company whose equipment prosecutors say he encouraged state Guard units to buy.

The federal bribery charges filed in Virginia against retired Lt. Col. Wesley Russell, 48, allege that he sought and accepted a 15 percent cut of profits from a company that sold recruiting equipment to state National Guard units.

Russell encouraged Guard units from other states to buy the company’s touch-screen boxes that played recruiting video and sold for about $30,000 each, according to the indictment that was released Wednesday.

Russell, who lives in the Delaware County town of Albany, carried out the scheme from September 2012 until March 2013, the indictment said.

Russell, who hasn’t yet appeared in court on the charges, declined to discuss the allegations on Friday.

“I’ve not been officially charged yet in court, so I can’t make comments at this time,” he told The Associated Press.

The Indiana National Guard said in a statement that Russell retired from the Guard in December 2013 after 28 years of service and served combat tours during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, in Iraq in 2002 and Afghanistan in 2007, earning two Bronze Star medals.

The Guard said it has begun an internal audit of all recruiting contracts from December 2008 to the present, saying it will “fully cooperate” with federal investigators.

“If these allegations of misconduct are substantiated, they are contrary to our Army and Air values and do not represent the actions of the over 14,000 members of the Indiana National Guard,” the Guard’s statement said.

Russell was among four retired and one active-duty National Guard officials and a civilian from around the country charged in military bribery cases that were announced Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Russell carried out the kickback scheme with the owner of an Alexandria, Virginia-based marketing and advertising company, according to the indictment. The names of the company owner and the business aren’t included in the court documents.

Russell is also charged with accepting money from the company owner for dinner and strip club expenses in the Washington area. The indictment doesn’t detail how much money was involved in the kickbacks or expenses.

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