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Army Reserve colonel allegedly pocketed $62,000 in fake rental property scheme

Army Reserve Col. Reece Roberts is accused of falsely claiming he lived out of state to collect rent and family separation payments.
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Army Reserve Col. Reece Roberts
Army Reserve Col. Reece Roberts was indicted on Feb. 21,2024 for allegedly defrauding the Defense Finance Accounting Service of more than $62,000 in benefits that he didn’t earn. (Sgt. 1st Class Brent C. Powell/U.S. Army Reserve)

Federal prosecutors say an Army Reserve colonel created bogus lease documents and claimed to live in a different state in order to collect more than $62,000 in travel and family benefits to which he was not entitled, according to the Justice Department.

Col. Reece Dennis Roberts was indicted by a federal jury on Feb. 21 on charges of filing a fraudulent claim against the United States, conspiring to defraud the United States, theft of government property, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, a Justice Department news release says.

“This type of deceit and misconduct is unacceptable for service members at any rank, but it is particularly disheartening when committed by a field grade officer during a national emergency,” U.S. Attorney Trina A. Higgins of the District of Utah said in a statement. “The vast majority of servicemembers in Utah are law-abiding and deserve the utmost appreciation for keeping the people of Utah safe.”

Roberts is accused of claiming that he lived out of state so that he could receive temporary change of station benefits and falsely claiming he was owed a family separation allowance, according to the indictment, which is available online through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, system.

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Roberts served with the 76th Operational Response Command, an Army Reserve Unit that works with state and local officials along with first responders and federal agencies during natural disasters and other emergencies, the indictment says.

Between June 2020 and July 2021, Roberts allegedly worked with an unindicted co-conspirator to defraud the Defense Finance Accounting Service, or DFAS, while he worked at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, the indictment says. The indictment does not name the co-conspirator, but it does say the grand jury knew this person’s identity.

Roberts allegedly fabricated a lease agreement for an out-of-state house that neither he nor his family lived in or used, the indictment says. The scheme also allegedly involved Roberts making bogus rent payments to a third person who was not identified in the indictment.

Federal prosecutors accuse Roberts of using Venmo to transfer money to the unnamed person along with instructions about how and when to return it to a bank account under Roberts’ control, the indictment says. Then Roberts allegedly submitted vouchers to be reimbursed $3,700 per month for the rent that he was not paying.

Roberts is also accused of continuing to submit reimbursement vouchers even after he stopped making the fake rent payments, according to the indictment.

Task & Purpose was unable to reach Roberts by phone or email on Monday. He is scheduled to appear in court on March 13, according to the Justice Department.

Roberts joined the Army Reserve in December 1991 and deployed to Iraq from July 2007 to April 2008, according to his official record, which was provided to Task & Purpose. 

His military awards include the Combat Action Badge, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, four Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals, the Air Force Achievement Medal, seven Army Reserve Component Achievement Medals, three Overseas Ribbons, and Parachutist Badge.

Army Reserve spokesman John Bradley deferred questions about Roberts to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah.

“The Army Reserve is aware of the incident and will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Bradley told Task & Purpose on Monday. “We take matters such as this seriously, and our primary concern is ensuring that all legal and appropriate actions are taken in accordance with our commitment to upholding the highest standards of conduct among our Soldiers and civilian personnel.”

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