Tag: Military

Bucks County Man Pleads Guilty to Faking a Military Career as a Navy SEAL, Stealing from the Government, and Straw Purchasing Firearms

United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Richard Meleski, 58, of Chalfont, PA, pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including healthcare fraud, mail fraud, stolen valor, and aiding and abetting straw purchases of firearms.

In November 2019, Meleski was charged by Indictment for his scheme to defraud the government of hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits.

To perpetrate the scheme, Meleski faked serving in the U.S. military, specifically the Navy SEALs, and falsely represented that he had been a Prisoner of War, in order to secure healthcare benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA) worth over $300,000.

Due to his false representation as a POW, the defendant received healthcare from the VA in Priority Group 3, effectively receiving healthcare before other deserving military service members.

Richard Meleski, 58, of Chalfont, PA

In reality, Meleski never served a single day in the United States military.

Meleski also filed for monetary compensation from the VA for PTSD he supposedly suffered during an armed conflict in Beirut in which he rescued injured service members. In his application for disability benefits for PTSD, Meleski falsely represented that he had been awarded the Silver Star for heroic actions during his time as a Navy SEAL.

Again, Meleski never served a single day in the United States military and of course was never awarded any service medals. Meleski also submitted another application to the VA for monetary compensation in which he included obituaries of actual Navy SEALs alongside whom he had supposedly served.

In short, he traded on the actions of true heroes in an attempt to bolster his false application for monetary benefits.

The defendant also filed for disability benefits from the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) for injuries he claimed to have received during his time in the service.

Meleski falsely testified under oath in connection with an SSA Disability proceeding.

After being arrested for fraud, it was discovered that the defendant had also engaged in aiding and abetting the straw purchase of two separate firearms; he also pleaded guilty to this conduct.

“Meleski faked a record as a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL in order to steal numerous forms of compensation,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Everything about this case is profoundly offensive. Our veterans fought for the freedoms we hold dear, and we owe them a debt that we can never fully repay. But holding individuals like Meleski accountable for their crimes is one small way that we can honor our veterans’ service.”

The case was investigated by Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Megan Curran.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (July 2020) Bucks County Man Pleads Guilty to Faking a Military Career as a Navy SEAL, Stealing from the Government, and Straw Purchasing Firearms

Is China planning a “Pearl Harbor” Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack on the US?

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, the Executive Director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security and former Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, published an informative, as well as a frightening essay, on “The People’s Republic of China Military Doctrine, Plans, and Capabilities for Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack” against the US and other nations.

In the report, Dr. Peter Vincent Pry said:

China is on the verge of deploying or has already deployed hyper-sonic weapons that could potentially be armed with nuclear or non-nuclear EMP warheads, greatly increasing the threat of surprise attack against U.S. forces in the Pacific and against the United States.

HGVs are boosted by a missile to an altitude of 40-100 kilometers where they skim along the upper atmosphere un-powered, using control surfaces on the glide vehicle to maneuver unpredictably, evading missile defenses, and highly accurately when they descend to target.

HCMs are launched by an aircraft and have engines to power themselves to the upper atmosphere where, like HGVs, they speed toward target evasively and accurately.

Both HGVs and HCMs are capable of extraordinarily high speeds, depending upon design ranging from at least 5 times the speed of sound or 6,200 kilometers per hour to 25,000 kph.

The combination of hyper-sonic speed, a flat non-ballistic trajectory that flies below radar, and maneuverability that frustrates interception and provides for highly accurate delivery, makes HGVs and HCMs an unprecedented threat to strategic stability and the balance of power.

U.S. Strategic Command’s General John Hyten, chief of the nuclear Triad deterrent, in 2018 sounded alarms about developing hyper-sonic weapons threats from China and Russia.

Former chief of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, testified to the House Armed Service Committee in February 2018 that “hyper-sonic weapons were one of a range of advanced technologies where China was beginning to outpace the U.S. military, challenging its dominance in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The U.S. should be very concerned about a scenario where China uses nuclear space weapons, perhaps ICBMs and IRBMs with specialized warheads, to quickly sweep the skies of U.S. satellites, even at the risk of losing PRC satellites, which could then be replaced with a surge of satellites launched by China to capture the “high frontier” and cripple U.S. military capabilities.

If China is orbiting nuclear-armed satellites for HEMP surprise attack, this would be one of their deepest and best protected military secrets.

In addition to obvious strategic considerations, the Outer Space Treaty bans orbiting nuclear weapons in space, and China has pursued a long propaganda offensive criticizing the U.S. for “militarizing space” intended to deter the U.S. from orbiting space-based missile defenses and from improving U.S. military capabilities in space.

The full 14-page report can be accessed here.

SecureTheGrid.com (June 2020) The People’s Republic of China Military Doctrine, Plans, and Capabilities for Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack

Iranian National Extradited to the Western District of Texas for Illegally Exporting Military Sensitive Items from the U.S. to Iran

On March 14, 2020, 38-year-old Merdad Ansari, an Iranian citizen and a resident of the United Arab Emirates was extradited from Republic of Georgia and arrived Saturday evening in San Antonio to face federal charges in connection with a scheme to obtain military sensitive parts for Iran in violation of the Iranian Trade Embargo.

These parts had dual-use military and civilian capability and could be used in such systems as: nuclear weapons, missile guidance and development, secure tactical radio communications, offensive electronic warfare, military electronic countermeasures (radio jamming), and radar warning and surveillance systems.

“As alleged, the defendant helped Iran to develop its weapons programs by obtaining military parts in violation of the Iranian Trade Embargo,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “We are grateful for the work our partners have done to ensure Ansari can be brought to justice.” 

“I am pleased that Mr. Ansari will face justice in an American courtroom.  I am grateful to the many law-enforcement partners who worked so diligently to make that happen,” stated U. S. Attorney John F. Bash for the Western District of Texas. 

“The FBI greatly appreciates the collaborative efforts and unwavering support from the Georgian Government and our federal partners. Together, over several years, we relentlessly pursued every lead to ensure that Ansari would eventually face the charges detailed in the indictment,” stated FBI San Antonio Division Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs. “Investigating criminal violations of U.S. trade embargoes is one of the FBI’s highest priorities since this criminal activity affects the national security of the United States and our allies, especially the security of our troops abroad.”

“HSI will use all resources at its disposal to prevent sensitive technology from being illegally exported from the United States,” said Shane Folden, Special Agent in Charge, HSI San Antonio. “HSI commends all the agencies involved in this effort, their dedication and perseverance has brought this individual before the court to face justice.” 

Ansari, and his co-defendant Mehrdad Foomanie (aka Frank Foomanie) of Iran, are charged in a federal grand jury indictment returned in June 2012 with conspiracy to violate the Iranian Transactions Regulations (ITR), conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  Foomanie remains a fugitive in this case. 

In October 2012, a third co-defendant, Susan Yip (aka Susan Yeh), a citizen of Taiwan, was sentenced to two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to violate the ITR by acting as a broker and conduit for Foomanie to buy items in the U.S. and have them unlawfully shipped to Iran. 

According to the indictment, Foomanie also bought or attempted to buy items in the U.S. and arranged to have them unlawfully shipped to Iran through his companies in Iran (Morvarid Shargh Co. Ltd.); in Hong Kong (Panda Semiconductor and Foang Tech Inc., aka Ofogh Electronics Co.); and, in China (Ninehead Bird Semiconductor).

The indictment also alleges that Ansari attempted to transship and transshipped cargo obtained from the U.S. by Yip and Foomanie using Ansari’s company, Gulf Gate Sea Cargo L.L.C., located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In her guilty plea, Yip admitted to primarily using her companies in Taiwan (Hivocal Technology Company, Ltd.; Enrich Ever Technologies Co., Ltd.; and, Kuang-Su Corporation) and in Hong Kong (Infinity Wise Technology; Well Smart (HK) Technology; Pinky Trading Co., Ltd.; and, Wise Smart (HK) Electronics Limited) to carry out the fraudulent scheme.

From Oct. 9, 2007, to June 15, 2011, the defendants obtained or attempted to obtain from companies worldwide over 105,000 parts valued at approximately $2,630,800 involving more than 1,250 transactions.

The defendants conducted 599 transactions with 63 different U.S. companies where they obtained or attempted to obtain parts from U.S. companies without notifying the U.S. companies these parts were being shipped to Iran or getting the required U.S. Government license to ship these parts to Iran.

At no time did Yip, Foomanie, or Ansari, individually or through any of their companies, ever apply for or receive either a required U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) license or Department of Commerce export license to ship any item listed in this Indictment to the Republic of Iran.

The Iranian Transactions Regulations, renamed the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations in October 2012, prohibit, among other things, the exportation, re-exportation, sale or supply, directly or indirectly, to Iran or the Government of Iran, of any goods, technology or services from the U.S. or by a U.S. person.

The embargo also prohibits any transaction by any U.S. person or within the U.S. that evades or avoids, or has the purpose of evading or avoiding, any prohibition set forth in the Executive Orders.

Upon conviction, Foomanie and Ansari faces up to 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to violate the ITR, up to 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to launder money and up to five years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The extradition occurred with substantial assistance from the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the Government of Georgia. 

The announcement was made on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers,  U.S. Attorney John F. Bash for the Western District of Texas; FBI San Antonio Division Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs; Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Antonio Office Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden; Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Southwest Field Office Special Agent in Charge Michael Mentalvos; and, Special Agent in Charge Tracy Martin, U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement, Dallas Field Office.

FBI.gov (March, 2020) Iranian National Extradited to the Western District of Texas for Illegally Exporting Military Sensitive Items from the U.S. to Iran

Greene County Man Sentenced to Prison for Illegal Possession of Firearm Silencer, Missile Warning System

A former military subcontractor was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to 33 months in prison and three years of supervised release for illegally possessing a firearm silencer and equipment that was property of the United States.

Joel Montgomery, 50, pleaded guilty to two counts in December 2019 with possession of a silencer not registered to him and retaining United States property with a value of more than $1,000.

According to court documents, in June 2015, Montgomery possessed at his home a firearm silencer that was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

While executing another search warrant at his home in October 2015, agents discovered an AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning System and a Control Countermeasures Set Display Unit that were property of the United States.

Montgomery had previously been employed as a subcontractor on a local military base, and during that time, had gained access to the property of the United States.

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Upon the end of his employment contract, Montgomery did not return equipment valued at more than $1,000 and instead kept the equipment for his personal use.

David M. DeVillers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Chris Hoffman, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division; and Jonathan McPherson, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), announced the sentence imposed by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Thomas M. Rose. Assistant United States Attorneys Brent G. Tabacchi and Dwight Keller are representing the United States in this case.

ATF.gov (February, 2020) Greene County Man Sentenced to Prison for Illegal Possession of Firearm Silencer, Missile Warning System

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AFIMSC engineer honored with Bronze Star Medal

On February 13, 2020, Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center commander awarded the Bronze Star Medal to Capt. Shane Lockridge.

Capt. Shane Lockridge is the chief of military construction requirements for the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, a subordinate unit of AFIMSC. He received the award for his performance as the director of operations and engineer adviser for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Kandahar, Afghanistan, from March 2018 to February 2019.

The Bronze Star is awarded to those who demonstrate heroic or meritorious achievement for service in a combat zone in connection with military operations against an armed enemy.

“It’s important for everybody in this center to know that this is what our folks do when they deploy each and every day … going out there, taking the fight to the enemy and taking care of our folks while doing it,” Wilcox said. “Capt. Lockridge, it is an honor to be standing with you.”

What makes the captain’s accomplishments even more impressive is he volunteered for the tour, which was also his first deployment. He gives credit and appreciation to the team he led.

“I had the honor of leading a team of 126 personnel tasked to bolster the capabilities of the Afghan Air Force’s engineering, security forces, logistics and communications squadrons,” Lockridge said. “Without their support and mentorship, I would have never been able to accomplish anything worth this honor.”

He and his team were assigned to the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, composed of more than 85 coalition members, including partners from the U.S., Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine and Belgium. The group assists, trains, and advises the Kandahar Air Wing in order to provide support to coalition counterinsurgency operations. Advisers mentor their Afghan counterparts across a range of functions including flight operations, aircraft maintenance, intelligence, logistics, personnel management, communications and base defense.

His squadron commander during his deployment, Maj. Kristina Sawtelle of the 443rd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, recalled the environment they were in and the work Lockridge performed.

“Our base was a significant target for attacks as it was a strategic base for the U.S. military, NATO and the Afghan National Army and Air Force,” Sawtelle said. “There were countless nights that were spent in bunkers with incoming sirens going off. Capt. Lockridge was asked to serve in two major roles during his deployment as lead engineering air advisor with one of the largest portfolios in Southern Afghanistan and the director of operations for the largest and most diverse air advisor squadron in the 738th.”

She emphasized that the level of work he performed further signified the level of achievement he demonstrated throughout his deployment.

“While exposed to significant threat streams to include rocket attacks, mortars and insider-threats, and the train, advise, assist mission put Capt. Lockridge shoulder-to-shoulder with our Afghan partners,” Sawtelle said. “His construction portfolio was extremely dynamic; however, one of his major projects was a multimillion-dollar Kandahar airfield renovation. The construction would allow for the successful build of the Afghan Air Force’s light attack, armed aircraft. The operating environment came with significant risk that was mitigated through continuous tactics, training and procedures exercises, live-fire drills and security assessments.”

As the only engineering officer in the 738th AEAG, he was also in charge of project development, funds procurement and construction execution of 12 projects worth $57 million. These projects included construction and renovation to assist in growing the Afghan Air Force mission by standing up the first Afghan UH-60 squadron 18 months ahead of schedule. In addition to bolstering the capabilities of the Afghan Air Force, Lockridge also participated in providing security and force protection to the entire 738th AEAG.

“We endured multiple rocket attacks,” Lockridge said. “We were in constant exposure for possible green-on-blue insider attacks, and we were able to perform 135 outside-the-wire missions, which were done at a time when we were facing opposing forces there at Kandahar Airfield.”

The airfield renovation was a significant accomplishment for Lockridge and his team. Enabling the beddown not only established the first-ever Afghan Air Force Blackhawk squadron ahead of schedule, but increased Afghan Air Force combat capabilities to progress toward operational independence.

“The challenges and adversity our engineers overcame during this project were tremendous and I was truly proud to be a member of the team,” he said. “I was part of something bigger than myself and am honored every day to work with some of the greatest people this world has ever seen.”

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AF.mil (February, 2020) AFIMSC engineer honored with Bronze Star Medal

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