Sacramento, California - Richard C. Sihner, 54, of Elk Grove, was sentenced Tuesday to two years and six months in prison for a scheme to fraudulently obtain bonuses in a recruitment program for the California National Guard, Acting United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
On January 22, 2016, after a seven-day trial, a jury found Sihner guilty of 18 counts of wire fraud relating to his scheme to receive unearned recruiting bonuses relating to California National Guard enlistees. The jury also convicted Sihner of one count of making false statements to a federal agent.
In sentencing Sihner, United States District Judge John A. Mendez rejected the suggestion that any blame for the crime rested with others involved in the process. “You, and you alone, are responsible,” said Judge Mendez.
“Integrity is a California National Guard core value, and we're committed to holding our soldiers and airmen accountable if they elect to commit fraud,” said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, Adjutant General for the California National Guard. “These cooperative efforts by the U.S. Attorney's Office continue to help us ensure we remain not only a capable force, but also an ethical force worthy of the people's trust.”
Sihner is a retired member of the California National Guard and participated in the Guard Recruiter Assistant Program (G-RAP). The United States Army contracted with Document and Packaging Broker Inc. (DOCUPAK) to administer G-RAP. Under G-RAP, members of the California National Guard served as recruiting assistants (RA). If an RA referred a potential Guard member to a recruiting office and that person ultimately enlisted, the RA was eligible to receive monetary compensation disbursed by DOCUPAK. RAs would typically receive a $1,000 payment when a nominee enlisted and a second $1,000 payment when the nominee left for boot camp. Ultimately, the G-RAP program was discontinued following the discovery of widespread fraud. Recruits who walked into recruiting offices entirely on their own initiative and were not referred by an RA, were claimed by corrupt RAs in DOCUPAK’s system, often with the assistance of corrupt recruiters.
According to evidence produced at trial, from December 27, 2007 to April 16, 2010, Sihner was an RA in the G-RAP program. A recruiter gave him information about new recruits so that Sihner could falsely claim to have referred them. Sihner made false claims and wrote elaborate falsehoods in the notes section of the DOCUPAK online portal indicating that he had referred the recruits. In fact, the recruits had made contact with the Guard to discuss potential enlistment for reasons entirely unrelated to Sihner. Sihner was paid $95,000 in compensation for purportedly referring 51 soldiers to enlist. Of the 39 recruits federal agents contacted prior to indictment, none had been referred to the Guard by Sihner. When confronted, Sihner lied to federal law enforcement agents investigating the fraud by repeatedly claiming that he had personally referred all of the new soldiers and that he had taken them to the recruiting office to introduce them.
This case was the product of an ongoing investigation by the Army Criminal Investigative Command Major Procurement Fraud Unit, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew G. Morris and Katherine T. Lydon prosecuted the case.
Other National Guard members and recruiters have been charged in similar recruiting‑fraud schemes in the Eastern District of California. The following defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
2:14-cr-153 TLN — Brian Kaps, 42, of Chico, pleaded guilty on November 21, 2014, to one count of wire fraud. Sentencing is set for August 18, 2016.
2:14-cr-152 TLN — Sarah Nattress, 28, of Paradise, pleaded guilty on October 23, 2014, to one count of wire fraud. Sentencing is set for May 26, 2016.
1:14-cr-108-LJO — Nicholas Huerta, 33, of Fresno, pleaded guilty on September 14, 2015, to one count of wire fraud. Sentencing is set for November 14, 2016.
1:14-cr-106 DAD — Joaquin Cuenca, 38, of San Diego, was a recruiter. On February 2, 2016, a jury found him guilty of three counts of wire fraud for fraudulent bonuses. He is scheduled for sentencing on July 18, 2016.