Spread thin between wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army National Guard came up with a recruiting assistance program in 2005 to beef up its ranks.
Members were paid bonuses of about $2,000 for each friend they could persuade to enlist. Full-time recruiters -- whose everyday job was to get young people to sign up for the guard -- obviously wouldn't qualify.
Thousands of National Guard members allegedly found a way to game the system, scamming the program for a confirmed $29 million, while payments of another $66 million remain under investigation.
The scam worked like this:
Full-time recruiters would collect the names and social security info of new recruits and pass them up to higher ranking officers, who'd then take credit for the referrals and file for bonuses. Those officers would split the cash with recruiters.
A 2011 audit launched more than 500 criminal investigations nationwide. On Thursday, three Minnesota guardsmen were indicted for taking part.
First Lt. Timothy Stafford, Pvt. Terry Wosmek, and former guardsman Quinton Jones were charged with splitting thousands of dollars with full-time recruiters. The three allegedly took credit for recruiting 17 soldiers and accepting $33,000 in bonuses.
Though the Army didn't audit the program for four years after initial claims of fraud popped up, the National Guard has since acknowledged that this recruitment program was ripe for abuse.
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