Former Army Special Forces soldiers sentenced for embezzling funds while deployed to Afghanistan

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Green Berets assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct urban movement training on July 18, 2019, at Fort Bragg N.C

(U.S. Army/Spc. Peter Seidler)

Three former U.S. Army Special Forces members have been sentenced for embezzling funds while deployed as a team in Afghanistan, a report given to Congress stated Tuesday.

Court records show a fourth soldier was sentenced at a separate date from the three referenced in the report, and a fifth soldier is disputing the charge.

The soldiers were accused of taking funds from the Commander's Emergency Response Program, stated the report given to Congress by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.


Chief Warrant Officer Deric Harper, Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Arthur Cook and Sgt. 1st Class Barry Lee Walls Jr. — all former members of the 3rd Special Forces Group — were sentenced June 11 by the Eastern District of North Carolina for their involvement in a money-theft scheme while deployed as a team in Afghanistan, the report states.

All three were ordered to serve three years' probation, forfeit $40,000, and pay $40,000 in criminal restitution, records state.

Sgt. 1st Class Cleo Brian Autry was sentenced July 9 to three years' probation and to pay $40,000 in restitution fees after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy and theft of government property, court records state.

A spokesman for the 3rd Special Forces Group said all of the soldiers have been discharged or retired from the military.

"Their actions do not reflect the ethics and professionalism of 3rd Special Forces Group, past or present," said Capt. Rick Dickson, a spokesman for the 3rd Special Forces Group.

Court records state that the five soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan between July 2009 and January 2010.

Harper was the officer in charge, records state.

"During the deployment, this team had access to various United States federal funds earmarked for the operation and reconstruction efforts overseas," the records state.

Court records state the team had access to: operation funds used to purchase mission critical items that cannot be obtained through the military supply funds; commander's emergency funds used to pay for humanitarian projects to benefit the local Afghan population, such as public roads, schools or medical clinics; and 1208 funds used to support counter-terrorism operations.

"Each member of the team was given an assignment with respect to these funds to assure the monies were properly accounted for and to prevent any misuse," the court records state.

Court records state that the soldiers withdrew federal funds in the form of Afghan currency from the finance office at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, took Afghan currency from a forward operating base near Jalalabad and converted the monies into American currency to purchase money orders and either mailed money orders and currency back to the U.S. or transported the money orders and stolen funds back to the U.S.

Court records indicate that Cook: purchased a personal money order with $500 of stolen federal funds Oct. 9, 2009; purchased a personal money order with $800 of stolen federal funds Nov. 12, 2009; and used $1,000 of stolen federal funds to purchase a money order Dec. 22, 2009.

Court records state that Walls: purchased a personal money order with $850 of stolen federal funds Oct. 6, 2009; used $2,600 of federal funds to purchase three personal money orders Nov. 10, 2009; and used $2,700 of federal funds to purchase three money orders Dec. 23, 2009.

Court records indicate that Harper: purchased a personal money order with about $500 of stolen federal funds Aug. 9, 2009, and deposited the money order into his bank account; purchased a money order with about $1,000 of stolen federal funds Sept. 21, 2009, and deposited funds into his bank account; used about $3,900 in stolen federal funds to purchase five personal money orders Oct. 9, 2009, to use as payments toward his credit card balances; and used about $2,000 of stolen federal funds to purchase two personal money orders Dec. 13, 2009, that were deposited into his bank account.

Court records indicate that Autry: purchased a personal money order with about $500 in stolen federal funds that he deposited into his bank account Sept. 27, 2009.

Court records also state that Autry and Walls used about $82,000 of stolen federal funds to purchase nine money orders Dec. 2, 2009, of which six were deposited into Autry's bank account and three were deposited into Walls' bank account.

Court records state that Harper and Walls deposited personal money orders they purchased with stolen funds into their bank accounts.

Court records state that Walls and Harper originally told federal law enforcement officers in July 2012 they each purchased between $25,000 and $35,000 in personal money orders while deployed in Afghanistan with cash they won through gambling.

Court records allege that the fifth soldier used about $1,800 in stolen federal funds to purchase two money orders deposited into his bank account.

An attorney filed a motion on behalf of that soldier on Feb. 10, 2016, stating that soldier only dealt with the 1208 fund money, and that information provided to the defense from the prosecution was "inaccurate and misleading."

The soldiers' defense attorney filed a motion March 2, 2017, requesting a classified trial and filed multiple motions to dismiss charges Jan. 13, 2018.

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©2019 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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