A grand total of 25 members from Puerto Rico’s National Guard and Reserve US Army have been charged by authorities for wire fraud and identity theft.
The scam? The 25 worked together to defraud a recruiting program which offered bonuses for successful recruiters, who referred new candidates, The Associated Press reports.
These recruiters received bonuses anywhere from $509 to $8,000 for fake referrals, according to U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez, who added that the scheme ran from 2007 to 2011.
The National Guard contracted with Document and Packaging Broker Inc., a company in Alabama, as part of an incentive program to bring in new recruits. The idea was to offer a set of bonuses to recruiters to fill the ranks.
Each new recruit brought in could net recruiters anywhere from $500 to $1,000. Beyond that, if the soldier made it to basic training, the bonus jumped another $500-$1,000 dollars. If the recruit had served previously, the bonus money jumped to between $2,000 and $8,500.
The bonus program offered a way for unscrupulous recruiters to illegally bring in a lot of cash. Recruiters would enter Social Security numbers of potential recruits—without their knowledge—into the program and sometimes gave a kickback to recruiter assistants.
“This scheme is a nationwide problem that is under investigation since 2012. Unfortunately, according to research, Puerto Rico is the district where more money has been lost because of this scheme. Puerto Rico does it better,” said Rodriguez, according to El Nuevo Dia, a local paper in Puerto Rico.
Gen. Marta Carcaña, adjutant general of the National Guard in Puerto Rico, acknowledged that it was “a sad day for the National Guard.”
The defendants involved now face up to 20 years in prison, along with two years for aggravated identity theft, following a years-long investigation by the Secret Service, Postal Inspectors Office and the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.