Considering we have been discussing the LQA issue and housing fraud going on in USFK from yesterday’s posting here on the ROK Drop, the Stars & Stripes provides a timely article about housing fraud in general going on in the Army:
Brian Martin knew he was getting too much money, the sailor told the court.
After renting an apartment on the economy in Japan, a space opened up at Yokosuka Naval Base so the petty officer first class moved his family there. But Martin’s Overseas Housing Allowance, or OHA, kept rolling in.
“It wouldn’t shut off,” Martin said of the $69,000 he collected in fraudulent housing allowance.
Though Martin said he tried to cut off the wrongful OHA, he eventually stopped trying to correct the mistake. And he sealed his fate by signing off on the payments on his “page two” personnel form.
“I really didn’t think about what I was doing at the time,” Martin testified in September at his special court-martial. “I knew that someone was going to catch it and that I’d have to repay it.”
But it’s not just a matter of paying the money back, military authorities say. This misperception can have disastrous effects because housing fraud comes at a much higher price.
“In a legal sense, OHA fraud is larceny, not just an overpayment. It is akin to knowingly submitting a fake check to a bank and taking money that is not yours,” said Lt. Mario Correa, a defense attorney who worked with cases at Yokosuka. “Many of these people have a lot to lose.”
Larceny carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. A housing fraud conviction may also include confinement, a reduction in rank to E-1 and forfeiture of pay. [Stars & Stripes]
The rest of the article explains the differences between BAH and OHA for those of you not familiar with it. The article also talks about housing fraud in each of the services. The Air Force claims housing fraud is dropping, but unsurprisingly Kunsan Airbase was the high point of housing fraud with 15 cases in the past three years. The Navy and the Marine Corps have seen a rise in investigations of housing fraud, while the Army said they are closely monitoring data. However, no one in the Army would comment about housing fraud in the Pacific area of operations. I have all the court martial results saved in my archives so maybe sometime I will go through them and total up the housing fraud cases in Korea since the Army seems reluctant to do so.
The last time I moved to Korea Army Finance was continuing to pay my BAH rate from back in the US instead of the rate for Uijongbu. I go to finance and fill out all the paperwork and was told my next LES would have the proper housing rate. Well the next month it still had the wrong BAH rate. So this time I went to finance showed them my LES and once again filled out paperwork but this time I had the NCO in charge sign a memorandum for me saying that I had been to their office and notified them of the mistake which they said they would correct. I then went over to the Camp Stanley legal office and talked to a JAG there to cover myself further, simply because I did not want to be accused of housing fraud.
It ended up taking finance four months to fix my BAH rate, but my commander was informed, JAG was informed, and I had multiple signed memorandums every month from finance just to cover myself if some CID investigator looking at BAH fraud tried to accuse me of something. When it was all said and done, finance actually let me keep the difference in the money which was nice, but I would have rather they fixed the problem in the first place so I would not had to deal with all the leg work to ensure I wasn’t accused of BAH fraud.
So often times I wonder how many people have been in my situation, but instead of following through to get it fixed after months of trying, they just say forget about it, because if the Army isn’t concerned about fixing the problem then why should I? So this causes a servicemembers who if the military fixed the problem in the first place would not have gotten in trouble. So while the military is going after servicemembers in situations like this, the massive housing fraud in Korea involving entities like Julie’s Realty continues to go on.