SAN ANTONIO — Two former soldiers from San Antonio have pleaded guilty in what officials say was a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. military and its contractor of at least approximately $244,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses.
The Department of Justice says Former Army Specialist Paul Escobar, 32, and current Army Specialist Richard Garcia Jr., 28, both of San Antonio, Texas, were indicted on Sept. 13, 2011. Escobar entered his guilty plea on July 19, 2012, and Garcia entered his plea on July 26, 2012.
Former Specialist Xavier Aves, 40, of San Antonio; Corporal Christopher Castro, 30, of San Antonio; former Staff Sergeant Grant E. Bibb, 40, of Eagle Pass, Texas; and Sergeant First Class Jesus Torres-Alvarez, 31, of El Paso, Texas, were also indicted.
Officials say Escobar admitted that in approximately July of 2008, he and Aves agreed to use a recruiting assistant account in Escobar’s name to claim that Escobar was responsible for referring certain potential soldiers to join the U.S. Army, when in fact Escobar had not referred those soldiers. Officials say Escobar and Aves received a total of approximately $6,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses.
Records show Garcia admitted that he and Aves did the same in approximately May of 2008. Officials say Garcia and Aves received approximately $13,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses.
Court documents state Escobar, Garcia, Aves and their co-conspirators collected, in total, approximately $244,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonus payments from the various recruiting programs.
Sentencing for Escobar and Garcia has been scheduled for Nov. 2, 2012.
The Department of Justice says, to date, the investigation has led to charges against eight people, all of whom have pleaded guilty. They include:
- On May 31, 2012, former Sergeant and National Guard recruiter Rafael L. Acosta, 39, of San Antonio, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud for organizing and leading a conspiracy to obtain more than $90,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 2, 2012.
- On February 3, 2012, Aves pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years. On Jan. 30, 2012, Bibb pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. On Jan. 26, 2012, Torres-Alvarez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to court documents, Torres-Alvarez, an active duty recruiter, admitted that he sold the names and Social Security numbers of potential soldiers to Aves and others involved in the scheme. Aves, Bibb and Torres-Alvarez are scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 2, 2012.
- On Nov. 3, 2011, Castro pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in the scheme. On June 29, 2012, Castro was sentenced to one year and a day in prison and ordered to pay $244,000 in restitution, jointly and severally.
- On Jan. 28, 2010, Sergeant Ernest Gonzales, 50, of San Antonio, pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in the scheme. Gonzales assisted the government by providing helpful information concerning Aves, Bibb and Castro. On June 29, 2012, Gonzales was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay $244,000 in restitution, jointly and severally.