Defense Employees Used Fake Website to Net Millions in Recruiting Bonuses
Sen. Claire McCaskill blasts a scheme that provided couple with $4 million in unearned rewards.
A retired Army sergeant and his wife, both of whom work for the Defense Department, remain on the payroll after exposure of their scheme to collect Army recruiting bonuses using a ghost website, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., announced on Tuesday.
The couple collected $4 million in bonuses for referring potential recruits, whose names they gathered using a bogus website called “officialArmy.com,” according to McCaskill, who led an investigation by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight.
Following up on a December letter to Army Secretary John McHugh demanding a review of recruiting oversight and safeguards, McCaskill said she is “absolutely disgusted. This is a staggering exploitation of public trust, of the brave men and women who volunteer to serve in the Army, and of taxpayer dollars. It’s past time for the Department of Defense to take a hard look at the people who perpetrated and approved this scheme, and for the Recruiting Command to put in place policies to better safeguard against future recruiting schemes.”
Other than setting up the since-abandoned website, “the couple provided no mentoring, meetings or other service to encourage the recruits to ultimately sign up,” McCaskill wrote in her letter. “The majority of names would likely have joined the Army regardless of having found the officialArmy.com website.”
McCaskill said Army officials were aware of the scheme but did nothing because there are currently no caps on bonuses, which amounted to $2,000 each for 2,000 putative recruits. “It’s sleazy but legal,” one Army official said, according to McCaskill. “The couple is not required to return the money, they face no criminal charges, and they are both still employed at the Department of Defense.”
The Army Recruiting Command ran a referral bonus program from 2006 to 2009, but it was terminated after auditors found fraud and duplicate bonuses for landing the same recruit, McCaskill noted.
An Army spokesman told Government Executive the service is “reviewing the letter and will respond appropriately.”