by WorldTribune Staff, January 29, 2024
A civilian employee who has been accused of defrauding the U.S. Army out of $100 million is facing charges that could land her a 142-year prison sentence.
Janet Yamanaka Mello, 57, used the ill-gotten funds to purchase over 30 homes, 80 cars, and huge amounts of jewelry through the seven-year scheme, authorities say.
Authorities also seized over $18 million in cash from six different accounts connected to Mello.
Mello, who worked as a civilian financial program manager at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, was arrested in December and charged with five counts of mail fraud, four counts of engaging in a monetary transaction over $10,000 using criminally derived proceeds, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
In a press release issued in December 2023, the Department of Justice said Mello “allegedly stole more than $100 million in Army funds by regularly submitting fraudulent paperwork that indicated an entity she controlled was entitled to receive funds from the Army.”
Mello claimed her business provided services to military members and their families through the 4-H program, but instead just funded a lavish lifestyle for herself, authorities said.
Mello purchased 31 real properties in Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington. She purchased at least 80 vehicles.
Authorities said Mello hatched a plan in 2016 to create a bogus business called Child Health and Youth Lifelong Development so she could siphon funds she received from the Army to herself.
Mello was released without bail and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas awaits a decision on whether she will strike a plea deal or face jury selection and trial on Feb. 12.
Despite the criminal charges, Mello has still been cleared to receive her full retirement benefits. She still brazenly claims she “earned” her civil service retirement package.
The military admitted that there is nothing that can be done to withhold Mello’s benefits as they’re protected under a federal law that was held up in government bureaucracy.
“The command has no authority to impact Ms. Mello’s retirement,” an Army spokesperson told the San Antonio Express-News.
“In accordance with 5 U.S. Code Section 8312, an individual may be denied an annuity or retired pay on the basis of the service of the individual, if the individual is convicted of treason, rebellion or insurrection, or other similar offenses. There is no similar statutory authority for denying retired pay based on a conviction of other offenses.”