FORT CAMPBELL, KY. — A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted a 42-year-old former Army official on identity theft and bank fraud charges, saying he tried to obtain loans by using stolen identities of active-duty and deployed soldiers.
According to the indictment, James R. Jones, who was an assistant inspector general with the Army Office of Inspector General at Fort Campbell, illegally obtained Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other personal information of Army officers — some of whom were deployed in Afghanistan.
Authorities say one of his victims was a U.S. soldier who was killed in combat in Afghanistan, though they did not name the soldier.
Rich Rudnick, director of operations of the National Veterans Foundation, said the incident should raise questions at Fort Campbell about how leadership positions are filled and who exactly is monitoring soldiers’ personal information.
“This could point to a structural failure,” said Rudnick, based in Los Angeles. “Is Fort Campbell protecting people’s information? Are they doing their job correctly? Are they doing due diligence to background employees? What kind of controls do military bases use to protect personal records?”
Craig Warfield, a commander with the American Legion Post 233 based in Fort Campbell, said the allegations sound like blatant corruption that could potentially affect the post’s reputation.
“He defaced the character of the soldiers,” Warfield said. “It’s a real shame.”
In the indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Nashville, authorities say Jones attempted to defraud the Fort Campbell Federal Credit Union and the Navy Federal Credit Union over a four-month period ending in May. In particular, he’s accused of obtaining a $12,000 line of credit from the Fort Campbell credit union in a soldier’s name, which he never made payments on.
Jones, prosecutors say, created fake email accounts in the names of the victims to apply for the loans.
Prosecutors say Jones tried to hide his role in the fraud scheme when investigators confronted him. Jones even asked a colleague to remove information on his work computer in an attempt to impede the investigation, the indictment says.
In an interview with a Secret Service agent, according to the indictment, Jones lied and said he had not illegally obtained the personal information, but instead acquired it from another individual, who is not named.
“This defendant abused a position of trust and used his position to specifically target those who serve our country, including certain officers who were deployed overseas when he stole their identities,” said Nashville’s acting U.S. attorney, David Rivera. “We will seek to hold him accountable for these crimes and for his unlawful attempts to cover them up.”
Among the charges federal prosecutors are leveling against Jones: identity theft, bank fraud, obstructing justice and making a false statement to investigators. Jones has said in published reports that he is not guilty of the charges.
The indictment lists three victims, referred to by initials to protect their identities. The total amount of money obtained illegally is not spelled out, nor is how Jones used the money.
If convicted, Jones could spend several decades in prison.
Bobby Allyn reports for The Tennessean.