Recently, we have seen an increasing number of cases involving BAH fraud and other allegations of entitlement and reimbursement fraud. The government has gotten serious about getting its money back: task forces have been created to investigate and prosecute these cases.
We have represented active duty members, activated reservists, and members recalled to active duty for the purpose of court martial for past BAH fraud. The amounts at issue in these cases have ranged from a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand dollars. The federal government is being very aggressive with these cases right now, so if you’re facing allegations that you took military money you weren’t entitled to, you should call us. Here are some of the common issues in these kinds of cases:
- A false or wrong home of record, used to get a higher BAH rate
- False rental agreements used to get a higher BAH rate
- Dependent-rate BAH claimed when there are no dependents
- Phony invoices presented for reimbursement of TDY expenses
- Claiming the maximum reimbursement for rental expenses in a particular region, when the actual rental expenses are much lower
If the government targets you, you should expect that the investigators will have access to all of the paperwork you submitted in order to get your money. In addition, the government will likely get your phone records and bank records, and might even subpoena your emails. In a proper investigation, the government will do everything it can to prove that you intended to steal the money from the beginning, or kept the money after you realized you had been overpaid because of a mistake.
These cases often turn on the issue of intent: at any point did you intend to steal the money? It’s not simply a question of whether you received money that you were not entitled to. Very often in cases like this, we see that the government has not fully explored the possibility that the overpayment was caused by a mistake. TDY, BAH, reimbursement, entitlement – these can be complicated areas, but the government usually assumes that the member understands them. But if the member made a mistake, that can be a defense. The problem is that if the government thought you made a mistake, there wouldn’t be any charges. If you’re facing charges, it’s because the government thinks you stole the money. That’s where your attorney comes into the picture.
The government assumes that the member is familiar with the JFTR and other written rules and regulations dealing with finances. The truth is that when it comes to financial issues, military members are poorly briefed on what they can and can’t do, they aren’t told about the ways people can get themselves into trouble if they’re not careful when filling out the paperwork and making claims.They are almost never given the rules and regulations for review before filing their claims. What makes the problem worse is that the personnel in the finance office handling the claims often don’t understand the regulations very well and need to receive frequent upgrades to their training. All of these issues are factors to consider when determining if you have a defense.
Even if the government can prove that the member took money the member wasn’t entitled to receive, there are still numerous issues to resolve that require the help of an experienced defense attorney. An obvious concern in a case like this is how the government can get its money back. The government can use several different ways to get its money, including wage garnishment, a civil action, or financial punishments at a court-martial. A primary issue is whether to use the court-martial process at all. The government may want to use the court-martial process to get its money, but it could use the process for the simple goal of punishing the member for taking the money in the first place. In cases like that, and most of them start out that way, it’s not necessarily about the money: from the prosecution’s point of view, it’s about deterring other military members from doing the same thing. In a case like that, the government will probably not be satisfied if you agree to pay the money back. The government will want to send you to jail and ruin your career. Your attorney needs to understand what your possible defenses may be, but he also needs to understand how all of these factors come into play and can be used to get some leverage for you.
Inevitably, these cases involve people with families, jobs, and several years of strong military experience. If the case does go to a court-martial, your attorney needs to know how to use these factors and many others in defending you against the charges, and, if necessary, getting you a fair sentence.
Fraud cases can be complicated. The regulations are complex, the accounting can be difficult, and the member’s good qualities and contributions need to be presented to their fullest extent. We have handled numerous cases like this and have the experience to handle these matters, no matter how small or large the amount is, and no matter if you’re looking to fight the charges or simply get a fair sentence. If you’re a military member facing any allegation regarding fraud, we invite you to review the representative cases below and call us for a free consultation to see how we can help you.