“DOES SOMEONE IN THE MILITARY GET AWAY WITH THIS?”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Dec. 9, 2018) — On February 3, 2017, The Post & Email reported that a former disabled U.S. Army soldier who became a victim of electronic bank theft received “full restitution” for close to $100,000 from Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) following confirmation of the removal of his money by an unauthorized third party.
However, the perpetrator of the crime has not yet been brought to justice, and whether or not the military is conducting an aggressive investigation remains a question in the mind of the soldier’s former power of attorney (POA).
At the time of the thefts, carried out at different times over a period of approximately three months in late 2016, the soldier was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in what the then-POA described as an “involuntary” admission.
Previously in 2015, the POA reported to the NFCU that “fraud” was committed against the soldier when his forged signature appeared on $13,000-worth of loans. Despite his never having applied for the loans nor signed for them, payments were drafted from his account each month as he attempted to recover from a sexual assault and traumatic brain injury, the former POA said.
An NFCU response letter sent to the POA dated “9 September 2015” from “John Tindell, Senior Investigator,” states that “After a thorough investigation, your fraud claim has been denied” without further explanation.
After the POA supplied us with a copy of the letter, The Post & Email wrote directly to Tindell to ask how NFCU reached its conclusion but received no response.
In July 2016, after interacting extensively with Walter Reed staff about the soldier’s well-being and the Army’s stonewalling of his request to take official leave, the POA reported that her work and home laptop computers, phone, and her children’s bank accounts were breached. She strongly suspected a military source to be the perpetrator, she said.
The POA also reported “stalkers” outside of her home and subsequently visited her county sheriff’s office to file a report. Nothing came of it, she told us last year.
In communications with the former POA and a spiritual adviser who spent time with the soldier during the time in which the bank heists occurred, Army investigators indicated that they were working to identify the perpetrator(s) of the stolen funds. The spiritual adviser, Rev. Gary Mason, told The Post & Email that he spoke extensively with the investigator and, at the same time, asked why the Army was not taking action on the sexual assault the soldier reported he experienced on April 29, 2013 while on active duty at Ft. Lee, VA.
The assault led to a traumatic brain injury followed by years of treatment and a myriad of medications with side effects, Mason and the former POA told us. The latter believes the soldier also became a victim of intimidation and additional sexual abuse on the part of a Walter Reed physician.
In January 2017, the soldier was discharged as disabled and returned to his home state for follow-up care. He has experienced difficulties since then, the former POA said, and recently terminated the phone number and email address he had been using.
A November 13, 2018 email from an official at Ft. McNair in Washington, DC to the former POA which The Post & Email has reviewed indicated that the official was unable to reach the soldier at either his last known email address or telephone number and requested new contact information if it were available. In an email the following day, the former POA advised the Army official to call the soldier’s mother, providing that telephone number and an optimal time to reach her.
In her response, the former POA added, “Rev Mason and I are still available to testify if needed.” She did not hear back from the Ft. McNair official, the former POA said, after she responded to his email. She also told us on Thursday that the soldier’s mother confirmed to her that to date, she has not been contacted by anyone from the Army.
Late last week, The Post & Email sent an email to the official at Ft. McNair and two others copied on the November 13 email to request the status of the investigation or a referral to a media representative who could answer our questions, to which we received no response.
The former POA said that the soldier is “not hiding” and currently resides near an Army base. “He receives a check and uses the VA hospital; it would be easy for them to find him,” she said.
Approximately two weeks after she communicated with the official from Ft. McNair, the former POA said, she noted a vehicle with darkened windows parked directly across from her home. “I was out on my daily walk and noticed a white Lexus with all of the windows completely tinted-out,” the former POA told us. “I thought it had to be a government vehicle and maybe they figured the soldier is here hiding out.”
She said that the vehicle had a “normal tag” for her state and that it was a “late-model, big-body truck.” “All of the windows were tinted, even the front windshield,” she said. “The driver was sitting there and the motor was running when I went for my walk. When I came back, it was parked in the cul-de-sac. So I went up through the cul-de-sac and noticed that from the back, all the windows were tinted. I went up close and knew they could see me, but I could see nothing. But they immediately became alarmed because I went in the house and let the dogs out for three or four minutes. When I came out, the vehicle was gone; it then made a loop around the subdivision, came speeding back down, then drove away.”
“That kind of tint is illegal unless you have a permit,” she continued. Further, she speculated, “To have these long periods of time where there was no stalking, and then two weeks after they made contact with me, this happens…? They’ll probably choose a different vehicle next time.”
Regarding the alleged investigation into the electronic thefts, she said, “What the perpetrator did is on a low level, but I think there’s somebody higher that this was done for. I think it’s dragging because a lot of people higher up could get in trouble. After almost two years, they can’t tell me they can’t trace it down to who moved almost $100,000? Does someone in the military get away with this? What is the problem?”
“We offered to testify; why don’t we ever get a response?” she asked rhetorically.
The former POA would like to know if formal charges have been filed against anyone and/or if there will be a trial. She has an idea as to the individual who might have committed the crime, she said, and would like to see justice carried out.