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The Military gave this officer a false prison document, stunting his profession. Now he is getting backpay

Years after a sloppy Military investigation slapped troopers with false prison information and derailed his profession, the officer who led the battle to clear service members’ names has lastly obtained his beforehand denied promotion.

However holding the golden oak leaf pin felt “bittersweet” for now-Maj. Gilberto De Leon.

“Now we’re really at first line,” De Leon informed Fox Information. “We have got to ensure this does not occur once more.”

Army Capt.  Gilberto De Leon stands in front of an American flag with his wife and children

Now-Maj. Gilberto De Leon was slapped with a false arrest document years after taking part in a recruiting program that paid Nationwide Guard members $2,000 for every individual they referred to the service. This system got here beneath scrutiny for alleged fraud, and the Military vowed to research all 106,364 individuals who obtained funds. (Courtesy Gilberto De Leon)

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De Leon was amongst near 2,000 troopers slapped with a false arrest document as a consequence of taking part in a Nationwide Guard recruiting program generally known as G-RAP, which led to 2012 amid accusations of fraud and mismanagement. Beneath stress from Congress, the Military launched a Activity Pressure Raptor to research all 106,364 folks paid by G-RAP and its Military Reserve counterpart.

Solely 137 troopers confronted prison prosecution, however the Military Felony Investigation Division (CID) “titled” 2,580 troopers, making a everlasting army document exhibiting they have been the topic of an investigation, in response to the Military. CID forwarded an estimated 1,900 troopers’ information to an FBI database the place the knowledge confirmed up as an arrest on a background examine — regardless that the troopers have been by no means arrested — and listed critical costs similar to wire fraud.

The false information blocked service members like De Leon from promotions and haunted veterans of their civilian lives as they utilized for jobs, licenses and extra solely to fail a background examine.

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De Leon was initially chosen for main in 2019, however his promotion stalled after a assessment discovered the mark on his document. He is been combating since then to clear his identify and was the primary G-RAP participant to have his document corrected final fall when CID promised to assessment all circumstances forwarded to the FBI.

In late Might, De Leon was formally promoted. He mentioned he would obtain two years of backpay and will medically retire at his greater rank.

It is unclear precisely what number of service members affected by the investigation remained within the army a decade after G-RAP ended. However some are nonetheless awaiting promotions, together with Military Capt. David Hernandez who was slated to advance to main in 2020 earlier than the flag on his document stalled his promotion bundle.

His prison background has been cleared, and Hernandez hopes a retroactive promotion will observe. However he fears it might nonetheless take months.

“Every single day that passes places me additional behind my friends,” Hernandez mentioned. “If none of this might have occurred, I might be getting checked out with my unique friends with the promotion — presumably round 2026 — to lieutenant colonel.”

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However Hernandez mentioned he is fortunate in comparison with the Guard members and reservists who left the army solely to have the false arrest document of harming their civilian careers.

“The individuals who have been washed out of the service with out their retirement or their pensions, what occurs to them?” service member advocate Liz Ullman beforehand informed Fox Information. “The individuals who have not been in a position to get jobs as a result of their background information have been so sullied, what occurred to them?”

Within the 2023 protection spending invoice, Congress ordered the secretary of the Military to assessment the case recordsdata of each service member or veteran affected by the G-RAP investigation, expunge improper prison information and report again to lawmakers.

CID expects to supply its assessment to Congress inside the subsequent month.

De Leon feels the Military nonetheless hasn’t taken accountability for the investigation, which price round $28 million and recovered about $500,000 of allegedly fraudulent funds, or apologized to the harmless troopers caught up in it.

“That is the most important scandal in army historical past on the subject of army investigations,” De Leon mentioned. “We have to determine who’s going to be held accountable, and if our coverage goes to alter.”

Man holds the golden leaf pin of major in his hand

Gilberto De Leon holds his main rank in late Might 2023. He was initially chosen for promotion in 2019, however the course of was scuttled by false data on his background report. (Courtesy Gilberto De Leon)

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An apology and dedication to alter would go a good distance, De Leon mentioned, particularly because the Military struggles with recruitment.

“Hundreds of service members are nonetheless affected by this,” he mentioned. “We have got to ensure this does not occur once more and there’s some sort of full restoration, some sort of compensation and a public apology by our personal appointed leaders.”

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