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Civilian Working for US Military Demands Retirement Benefits After Pulling off $100 Million Scam

Alleged con-woman was accused of stealing millions in Army funds.
Cover Image Source: Armed soldiers | Getty Images | Photo by Spencer Platt
Cover Image Source: Armed soldiers | Getty Images | Photo by Spencer Platt

Defence is a crucial sector that needs to be safeguarded from any kind of breach to ensure the safety of citizens. But in an incident that has shaken the US military establishment, a civilian financial program manager at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, has been accused of orchestrating a scam that amounts to a staggering $100 million. The accused, identified as Janet Yamanaka Mello, was responsible for determining the eligibility of organizations applying for the 4-H Military Partnership Grant, a program designed to offer youth development opportunities for military-connected children.

Image Source: Photo by Song Kyung-Seok - Pool | Getty Images
Image Source: Photo by Song Kyung-Seok - Pool | Getty Images

She allegedly orchestrated a complex scheme involving the creation of a fraudulent nonprofit organization named Child Health and Youth Lifelong Development. Through this sham entity, she purportedly submitted falsified paperwork to secure grant money.

The indictment asserts that Mello then diverted the funds to a UPS store mailbox she rented near San Antonio, subsequently depositing the money into her personal bank account. Prosecutors claim that she repeated this process over forty times during six years, accumulating a staggering $100 million for herself in the process.

One of the most egregious aspects of the alleged scam is the accusation that the 57-year-old army civilian forged her supervisor's digital signature to approve the illicit funds. This raises serious concerns about the internal controls and supervision within the military financial programs, prompting a closer examination of the safeguards in place to prevent such fraudulent activities.

Image Source: Photo by Song Kyung-Seok - Pool | Getty Images
Image Source: Photo by Song Kyung-Seok - Pool | Getty Images

The charges brought against Mello include five counts of mail fraud, four counts of engaging in a monetary transaction over $10,000 using criminally derived proceeds, and one count of aggravated identity theft. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is actively seeking to seize any property acquired through these illegal gains.

Mello's attorney, Albert Flores, has defended his client's right to retirement benefits, arguing that the allegations should not impact her ability to collect funds accrued over years of civil service. Flores contends that the army civilian earned her retirement benefits, implying a separation between her alleged criminal activities and her service record. 

Image Source: Photo by RDNE Stock project | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by RDNE Stock project | Pexels

"We expect a large portion of the assets will be recovered," Flores stated, pointing out that the government can potentially recoup money spent on tangible assets such as real estate, cash, vehicles, and other properties. Despite the gravity of the charges, the attorney appears optimistic about Mello's ability to retain some of her ill-gotten gains.

The lack of immediate responses from key entities, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas and the Army, raises questions about the ongoing investigation and the potential broader implications of this case.

Pexels | Photo by Pixabay
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Pixabay

This case prompts a broader conversation about the systems in place to prevent and detect financial fraud within government agencies, especially those handling substantial sums of public funds. As the legal proceedings unfold, the public will be closely watching to see how the justice system navigates a case of this magnitude. The outcome could have far-reaching implications for the military's financial management practices, forcing a reevaluation of existing safeguards.