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False travel records may equal larceny

Navy Times

By, Mathew B. Tully

Q. What kind of trouble could a service member get in for submitting false
travel records?

A. By tricking the government into paying bogus travel-related expenses,
troops are stealing from their country, and can be charged with larceny of
military property.

Regardless of whether the government actually pays a service member based on
a false travel voucher, even submitting such documentation constitutes a fraud
against the U.S. Lies play an integral role in travel voucher fraud schemes,
starting with the lie a service member tells when he or she signs a falsified
travel voucher. However, if the government charges a member with making both
false official statements and false and fraudulent claims, he or she  must make
sure the government isn’t prosecuting the same offense more than once.

In U.S. v. Alice M. Roosa (2013), the U.S. Army Court of Appeals found these
two charges can, in fact, amount to an improper multiplication of charges.

In that case, an Army lieutenant colonel was convicted of, among other
things, four specifications of false official statements and one specification
of submitting a false or fraudulent claim. Two of the false official statement
specifications related to fraudulent travel vouchers and lease agreements from a
fictitious company. The court found these false official statement charges
“address the very same fraudulent documents that were the basis of the false
claim” and “the false-claim charge expressly references the vouchers which
contained those documents in the language of the specification.” Ultimately, it
set aside two of the false official statement specifications.

Bogus receipts and lease agreements featuring forged signatures of purported
landlords or other parties often are submitted with false travel vouchers. As
the Army Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces noted in U.S. v. Tonya M.
Jones-Marshall (2012), forgery generally involves false signatures on a
document, but the Uniform Code of Military Justice requires the falsified
documentation to “impose a legal liability on another or change his legal right
or liability to his prejudice.”  It involved an Army first lieutenant who was
convicted at a general court-martial of, among other things, six specifications
of forgery. Over two years, she stole more than $50,000 by submitting fake
rental receipts and rental agreements for reimbursement on which the purported
lessor’s signature was forged.

The government argued these forged documents “would, if genuine, apparently
operate to the legal harm of the United States, in that [they were] used to
fraudulently submit travel vouchers.” The Army Court of Criminal Appeals found
they did not impose  legal liability on the U.S.

Mathew B. Tully is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and founding
partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC (www.fedattorney.com). Email questions to
askthelawyer@militarytimes.com

 

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