Article 121 of the UCMJ specifies the provisions regarding punitive measures to be adopted against service members accused of larceny. As you can imagine, the law is a minefield, with many elements capable of different interpretations.
Larceny and financial fraud typically happen through the theft of basic housing allowance (BAH), through wrongful claims of travel expenses, or through the misuse of Government credit cards.
To prove larceny against you, command must first establish that you wrongfully took, obtained or withheld from some person or entity. Then, the Government must establish that you did this with intent to deprive or defraud another, or to appropriate the property for your own personal gain.
WHAT IS THE THEFT OF BAH?
The Government has become increasingly serious about prosecuting the theft of BAH. Here are a number of scenarios that could apply to you.
BAH related forms are complicated, and you might have inadvertently committed a mistake by noting a false or wrong address as your home on record. If this wrongly noted home of record then gave you a higher rate of BAH, it could justify the charge of larceny.
Perhaps you used an expired or wrong rental agreement. If this wrong or expired rental agreement then gave you a higher rate of BAH, you could be charged with larceny. If you inadvertently continued to claim a dependent that had ceased being a dependent, it could justify the charge of larceny.
If you mistakenly claimed TDY expenses that were ineligible, based on your circumstances, it could justify the charge of larceny.
Even a simple mistake like claiming the maximum rent allowed, instead of your actual rent, could justify the charge of larceny.
The main hurdle the Government has to over come in all of these scenarios is your intent.
As you have probably concluded, your court martial would revolve around the issue on intent. The military machine will do its best to prove that your actions definitively show an intent to deprive, defraud or appropriate beyond a reasonable doubt.
Intent comes into play right from the time you fill out and submit the record. The military must prove that you submitted wrong information, with the intent to receive payment that you did not actually deserve.
Further, when you receive such a payment, the military must prove that you knew this payment was wrongly received, and that you did not intend to return this payment.
WHY HIRE A CIVILIAN MILITARY ATTORNEY?
Even though intent is required to be proven at each stage, the military makes it difficult for you to simply assert your innocence.
First, the Government proceeds with the assumption that you did not make a mistake, that you had intent to deceive, defraud, appropriate.
Second, the Government prosecutor accesses all records it considers relevant to its investigation, which includes your personal records. Even a careless reference by you, or a careless mistake in not returning money you ought to have returned, can lead to serious consequences.
Finally, the amount need not be huge, for you to be targeted. Claims range from as little as thousand dollars to over a hundred thousand dollars.
You would be provided with a military defense attorney at your court martial in any case. However, many such attorneys urge their clients to opt for a guilty plea. Military defense counsel are typically overworked and underpaid. This is your life and reputation at stake. Being found guilty at a court martial of larceny can have serious consequences, not only to your military career, but to employment opportunities outside the military.
An experienced attorney such as Joseph Jordan knows the weaknesses in the military’s arguments. He understands the difficulties in proving intent at each stage described above. He can unravel the case against you, by systematically collecting and presenting evidence, which establishes your honest mistake.
You might have received bad advice, the form might have been incorrectly processed, your payment received might have been so complicatedly calculated that you never got around to figuring it out. Joseph Jordan works through the record and your testimony, and presents your case in the strongest light possible.