A woman named Janet Yamanaka Mello worked as a civilian financial program manager for the U.S. Army in Texas for several years. Now she’s heading into retirement with full federal benefits. This would be an unremarkable story were it not for the side hustle that Mello had been allegedly running. She had been using her position to defraud the Army of a lot of money by siphoning it off to her own personal accounts. Even that might sadly not be seen as all that unusual these days except for the staggering amounts involved. It’s alleged that she defrauded the Army of $100 million dollars, spending the cash on dozens of expensive real estate purchases and a fleet of luxury cars. She’s already admitted to much of it and her attorney claims she will be returning some of the money. So how is she able to draw retirement benefits? Her attorney claims “she earned it.” And the Army claims that they can’t do anything to stop it. (NY Post)
A con artist who is accused of defrauding the US Army out of $100 million has been given the green light to retire with full benefits.
Janet Yamanaka Mello, 57, who is currently under criminal investigation, brazenly claims she “earned” her civil servant retirement package despite allegedly using the funds to purchase over 30 homes, luxury cars, and jewelry through the seven-year-long scheme.
The military admitted that there is nothing that can be done to withhold Mello’s benefits from her as it’s protected under a federal law that was held up in government bureaucracy.
It’s really hard to wrap your mind around the staggering amounts of money that were stolen and the audacious lifestyle the thief enjoyed. More than 30 luxurious homes and at least 80 expensive vehicles, including some class, collector’s edition cars. Authorities also seized more than $18 million in cash from her private accounts that she hadn’t gotten around to spending yet. And she did all of this in barely six years.
How could she possibly be preparing to enjoy her retirement benefits? As it turns out, those benefits fall under 5 U.S. Code Section 8312. That law states that Mello’s benefits are basically untouchable unless she is convicted of “treason, rebellion or insurrection, or other similar offenses.” Of course, she may have to enjoy those benefits behind bars. She’s been 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. She was released without bail in Texas and is awaiting trial. If convicted on all counts, she could be sentenced to up to 142 years in prison.
While we will likely never be able to recover all of the money that Mello took, I suppose it’s good that she was eventually detected and arrested. But I simply can’t wrap my mind around how anyone could possibly launch a scheme like this on such a massive scale and believe that they might simply get away with it. She even filed reports detailing the money she was withdrawing. She was living the lifestyle of the rich and famous while supposedly receiving a public servant’s pay. Yet she only began the endeavor in 2016 and it still took until last year for the law to catch up with her.
We have entire departments dedicated to tracking the performance of contractors and reviewing the procedures we follow. Will there be any sort of review of this debacle to determine how it happened and ensure that others aren’t doing the same without being detected? This isn’t just a waste of a massive amount of money. It’s a huge public embarrassment. And it directly affected our military, which has more than enough problems to deal with already. We must be able to do better than this.