21Tucson Air Guard charged with fraud

Published: Oct. 21, 2013 at 9:32 PM MST|Updated: Nov. 5, 2013 at 2:39 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - 21 members of the Tucson Air Guard have been charged with defrauding the US Government out of $1.4 million.

According to the indictments handed down by the Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, the 21 have been charged with a variety of things like fraud and conspiracy. They could face up to 12 1/2 years in prison.

All 21 have been issued a summons to appear in court in Tucson Friday.

They are members of the 214th Reconnaissance Group which flies drones in Iraq and Afghanistan out of Davis Monthan.

The Attorney General says the 21 used false addresses to make it look like they lived out of state but worked in 'Tucson.

That made them eligible for disbursement pay sometimes "four or five times what they would normally earn," Horne says.

Some of them made more than $100,000 Horne says.

Disbursement pay is paid to soldiers to cover expenses when they are away from home.

The normal rate for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is $3 a day according to Horne.

Horne says some of these soldiers also double dipped.

When out of state on training missions, they would get disbursement pay for being away from Tucson but also get the original disbursement pay they'd been claiming.

Only eight of them remain in the Air Guard.

No one has been arrested and no one is in custody.

Horne says because they are not a flight risk and there's no fear they won't show up in court.

The 18 month long investigation was conducted by the FBI after the comptroller discovered a pay records issue with two members of the Air Guard.

The investigation revealed a wider net.

Even though none of the money is state money, it's all federal, the soldiers are from Arizona, all of them stationed in Tucson as part of the Arizona Air Guard.

Horne says it's not unusual for the FBI to conduct an investigation which is prosecuted by the state.