Former Army Staff Sergeant Pleads Guilty to Stealing Government Funds
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 13, 2011|
GREENVILLE, NC—United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that in federal court today PHILIP STEPHEN WOOTEN, 35, pled guilty before United States Magistrate Judge David W. Daniel to conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, to steal and convert monies belonging to the United States government, and to bulk cash smuggling of currency into the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and theft and conversion of government property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641.
“American servicemen and women put their lives on the line every day in Afghanistan and play a vital role in the reconstruction mission. Sgt. Wooten betrayed his fellow service members and put that mission at risk. SIGAR and our partners will aggressively pursue anyone who commits this kind of crime,” said Steven J Trent, Acting Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
“Philip Wooten deceived his country and his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan and dishonored the very principles he promised to uphold. Wooten’s guilty plea today should reassure the public that the FBI and our outstanding law enforcement partners will make sure those who betray our trust are held accountable,” said Chris Briese, the Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI.
Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Special Agent in Charge John F. Khin, Southeast Field Office, commented, “It is disheartening when a military member abandons his code of conduct and violates a position of trust for personal enrichment. The DCIS will continue to aggressively investigate these offenses to protect the integrity of the Department of Defense, especially those service members who are serving honorably and selflessly in Southwest Asia.”
According to the criminal information filed on October 12, 2011, WOOTEN was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group based at Fort Bragg. He was deployed to Afghanistan from July, 2009, to January, 2010, where he was a Field Ordering Officer who had access to federal funds earmarked for overseas operations and reconstruction. WOOTEN and a co-conspirator withdrew federal funds from the finance office in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and then kept the money for themselves. In order to account for the stolen money during mandatory audits held every 60 days, WOOTEN and his co-conspirator would falsify and then submit the falsified receipts. With the majority of the stolen money, they would purchase blank United States Postal money orders in $500 and $1,000 increments. Most of the money orders were then shipped back to the United States by international carrier. They carried some of the money orders on their persons or in their luggage back to the United States. WOOTEN and his co-conspirator also wired, via Western Union, the remaining stolen funds from Kandahar back to various locations in the United States.
The investigation revealed that WOOTEN and his co-conspirator stole approximately $210,000.
Investigation of this case was conducted by the Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, and the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command. Assistant United States Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan is serving as prosecutor for the government.