Two Fort Bragg soldiers plead guilty to embezzlement
Posted April 7, 2011 4:26 p.m. EDT
Updated April 8, 2011 8:10 a.m. EDT
Fort Bragg, N.C. — Two Fort Bragg soldiers accused of embezzling nearly $1.3 million from a company in Afghanistan have pleaded guilty in a federal courtroom.
The Fayetteville Observer reported that Sgt. Edwin Vando, 33, of Hope Mills, and Sgt. Juan Lamboy Rivera, 32, of Fayetteville, pleaded guilty Thursday before U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle as part of a plea agreement. They promised to testify against a Fort Bragg soldier who has not been indicted or publicly identified.
Vando and Rivera were charged with aiding and abetting an employee of the United States in converting property of another.
"These Army non-commissioned officers violated the trust of the American people and our allies by greedily lining their own pockets ... while their fellow service members risked their lives in combat operations in Afghanistan," John F. Khan, special agent in charge with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, said in a statement.
Court documents say the soldiers, working along with an Afghan interpreter, embezzled the money while deployed with Fort Bragg's 82nd Finance Battalion in 2009.
A government contractor, Abdul Wasi Faqiri Company, alerted the military that it might have been overpaid. Prosecutors said the military determined the discrepancy was just the result of a change in currency exchange rates, but the suspects told the contractor it had been overpaid and ordered it to return the money. The funds were wired to an account belonging to the suspects.
The contractor provided military apparel and equipment for the Afghan National Army and Police.
"It was refreshing to learn that the Abdul Wasi Faqiri Company came forward to correct what they believed to be an error in their favor. It was disheartening to learn that the United States soldiers tried to take advantage of that," U.S. Attorney George Holding said in a statement.
Vando and Rivera could face 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
They were also ordered to forfeit eight silk Persian rugs and the embezzled funds, most of which federal authorities have already recovered.
Information from: The Fayetteville Observer