Ex-Army inspector accused of stealing troops' IDs

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By BRUCE SCHREINER and LUCAS L. JOHNSON II, Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A former Fort Campbell inspector whose job was to investigate misconduct has been accused of stealing the identities of Army personnel, including a soldier killed in combat, in a scheme to obtain thousands of dollars in bank loans.

The indictment handed down Wednesday alleges James Robert Jones, 42, of Woodlawn, Tenn., used his position as an assistant inspector general at the Army post on the Kentucky-Tennessee line to obtain personal information on active-duty Army officers, some of whom were deployed to Afghanistan.

Jones, whose rank is sergeant first class, is accused of using the information — including Social Security numbers and dates of birth — to apply for loans in the officers' names, the federal indictment said. He successfully obtained fraudulent loans from two financial institutions, it said.

Among those targeted was an enlisted soldier who had been killed in combat in Afghanistan, the indictment said.

Jones said Wednesday night he would plead not guilty to the charges.

"There's a whole lot more to the story than what meets the eye, I can tell you that much," he said in a brief phone interview with The Associated Press.

Jones said he has been in the Army for nearly 20 years and was in the inspector general's office at Fort Campbell for close to two years. A voicemail greeting on Jones' cellphone included portions of the song "God Bless the U.S.A."

The indictment did not identify the soldiers allegedly targeted in the scheme, and it mentioned two credit unions allegedly targeted.

The alleged scheme took place from February to May of this year, it said. Jones allegedly created fake email accounts in the officers' names as part of his loan applications and called the credit unions pretending to be the officers when following up on the applications, it said.

The indictment says Jones applied for a $12,000 loan from Fort Campbell Federal Credit Union.

Jones withdrew cash from loans he fraudulently obtained, the indictment said, without specifying the amount. He also purchased a cashier's check from the Navy Federal Credit Union, using funds from a loan he had obtained, it said.

Jones failed to make payments on the loans he fraudulently secured, it said.

When confronted by investigators, Jones tried to conceal his role by falsely accusing a deceased Army officer of planning the scheme, according to the indictment.

"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," Acting U.S. Attorney David Rivera said in announcing the indictment.

Jones was indicted on charges of aggravated identity theft, bank fraud and making a false statement to a financial institution.

He's also charged with obstructing justice and making false statements to investigators. Those charges stem from allegations that Jones asked a colleague to delete information on his work computer in an alleged effort to impede the investigation, the indictment said.

Fort Campbell spokesman Bob Jenkins said the post was reviewing the indictment and would have no additional comment Wednesday.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command.

"The Secret Service remains committed to fighting this type of financial fraud by pursuing individuals who obtain fraudulent loans using stolen identities, especially when the identities belong to members of our armed services," said Todd Hudson, special agent in charge of the Secret Service field office in Nashville.

If convicted, Jones faces up to 30 years in prison for the counts of bank fraud and making a false statement to a bank, along with an additional two years for each count of aggravated identity theft. Jones also faces up to 20 years if convicted of attempting to destroy records and five years for allegedly making false statements to investigators.

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Schreiner reported from Louisville, Ky.

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