- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2011

Six current and former members of the U.S. military have been charged in a 41-count indictment handed up in federal court in Texas on charges of defrauding various U.S. military components and their contractors of $127,000 by fraudulently obtaining recruiting bonuses, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, who heads the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said Thursday.

Xavier Aves, 40, of San Antonio; Christopher Castro, 30, of San Antonio; Grant E. Bibb, 40, of Eagle Pass, Texas; Jesus Torres-Alvarez, 31, of El Paso, Texas; Paul Escobar, 31, of San Antonio; and Richard Garcia, 28, of San Antonio, were each charged with one count of conspiracy. The indictment said Mr. Aves also is charged with 30 counts of wire fraud and 10 counts of aggravated identity theft; Mr. Castro, Mr. Bibb, Mr. Escobar and Mr. Garcia also were charged with five counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

According to a criminal information presented in court, Mr. Aves, Mr. Bibb, Mr. Torres-Alvarez and Mr. Garcia are currently serving in the U.S. military while Mr. Castro and Mr. Escobar are former members of the military. Justice Department officials said the charges stem from a suspected scheme in which the defendants fraudulently obtained recruiting bonuses for soldiers whom they did not actually recruit.

The six were arrested Wednesday and Thursday by U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) agents and made their initial appearances in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

According to the indictment, between 2005 and 2008, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Reserves and the National Guard entered into contracts with Document and Packaging Broker Inc. to administer recruiting bonus programs designed to offer monetary incentives to soldiers who recruited others to serve. In addition, the Army managed its own recruiting bonus programs, which offered referral bonuses to soldiers who recruited others to serve in the Army or Army Reserves.

Through these recruiting programs, a participating soldier could receive up to $2,000 in bonus payments for every person they recruited. Based on certain milestones achieved by the referred soldier, a participating soldier would receive the recruiting bonus payments in the form of direct deposits and pre-paid debit card payments.

According to the indictment, between February 2006 and February 2011, Mr. Aves, Mr. Castro, Mr. Bibb, Mr. Escobar and Mr. Garcia paid military recruiters, including Mr. Torres-Alvarez, for the names and social security numbers of potential future soldiers. They allegedly then created online accounts in those names and using the information they obtained from military recruiters, claimed they were responsible for recruiting certain new soldiers to join the military, when they did not recruit any of them.

The Justice Department said that as a result, Mr. Aves, Mr. Castro, Mr. Bibb, Mr. Escobar and Mr. Garcia received approximately $127,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses. The indictment said the defendants split the bonuses among themselves and recruited other soldiers to participate in the scheme. According to the indictment, a portion of the bonuses were sent to the personal bank accounts of Mr. Aves’s girlfriend.

If convicted, the defendants each face up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charges, 20 years on each wire fraud count and two years on each count of aggravated identity theft. They also face fines of up to $250,000 each.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Edward J. Loya Jr. and Brian A. Lichter of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.

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