Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Federal jury convicts man of lying about military status, bringing weapons to MacDill Air Force Base

TAMPA — The government will continue to meet Scott Allan Bennett's housing needs.

A jury convicted the civilian defense analyst Thursday on charges that he lied about being on active duty and posed as an aide to the chief of U.S. Special Forces so he could get an apartment at MacDill Air Force Base.

Jurors deliberated for an hour before finding Bennett guilty of four charges that could send him to prison for up to 71/2 years. Bennett, 40, displayed no emotion as the verdict was announced and a judge ordered him into immediate custody pending sentencing on Oct. 25.

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington, noting a veritable arsenal of weapons Bennett kept at his MacDill apartment, said he was a danger to the community.

"Mr. Bennett is a very intelligent man," Covington said. "No doubt about it. Sometimes those are the most dangerous."

Bennett was a lieutenant in the Army Reserve who worked for a private defense contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, when he was transferred to MacDill in early 2010 to work as a civilian analyst at U.S. Central Command.

Prosecutor Sara Sweeney told jurors that Bennett, who was not on active duty, put on his Army uniform and bluffed his way onto a military aircraft carrying Adm. Eric Olson, chief of U.S. Special Operations Command, from Washington, D.C., to MacDill.

SOCom and CentCom, which spearhead the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are both headquartered at MacDill.

The next day, Bennett visited the MacDill housing office, still wearing his uniform without authorization, Sweeney said.

Bennett told housing officials that he was Olson's aide and had been instructed by him to get an apartment immediately, Sweeney said.

Only active duty personnel are allowed to live on base.

Officials said Bennett told them he could not immediately provide his orders because they were top secret. But housing officials still gave him the keys to an apartment.

Bennett lived there for nearly three months.

"He knew exactly what to say to get what he wanted," Sweeney told jurors.

Defense attorney David Chalela said housing officials at MacDill made Bennett a scapegoat to cover up their own mistakes. Chalela said his client was honest but perhaps confused about his active duty status.

"When your work performance is lame," Chalela said, "find someone else to blame and bring in the big government train."

Bennett's days at MacDill ended on April 23, 2010, when his BMW was stopped in a random check at MacDill's main Dale Mabry gate at about 2 a.m.

Security personnel thought he seemed confused. Tampa police were summoned, and Bennett was charged with driving under the influence. The charge was dropped.

Police found a loaded handgun in Bennett's pocket and a second gun in his car. At his apartment, security found eight other guns and 9,000 rounds of ammunition.

Bennett was charged with lying to the government, wearing a uniform without authorization and violating security regulations by keeping guns without registering them with the base.

Prosecutors said Bennett didn't behave as he awaited trial. In April, they said, Bennett wore a police uniform and gun to gain access to a military base in Virginia. Bennett denied the allegation.

And last month, prosecutors said, Bennett got into a closed social event at the embassy of Finland in Washington by saying he was a defense attache.

Now, Bennett's military career is probably done. Prosecutors said he will be booted from the Reserve. And Booz Allen Hamilton fired him long ago.

As his trial ended, Bennett was accused of one more lie.

The judge had a U.S. marshal tell Bennett to stop shaking his head during closing arguments, but Bennett continued to do so.

Judge Covington was livid and asked Bennett to explain. His excuse: The officer never told him. The judge threatened Bennett with contempt.

Apparently, she didn't believe him.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3432.

Federal jury convicts man of lying about military status, bringing weapons to MacDill Air Force Base 07/21/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 21, 2011 11:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Editorial: A proud moment for civic involvement in Hillsborough County

    Editorials

    It took private citizens less than 24 hours to do what their elected leaders in Hillsborough County could not for the past three months: Find the moral fortitude and the money to move a century-old Confederate war memorial from outside the county courthouse. Thursday's achievement was a lesson in leadership to county …

    The Hillsborough County Commission dithered for three months over moving the Memoria in Aeterna monument from the old county courthouse.
  2. Fort Myers woman arrested for doing cocaine off iPhone in parent pick-up line

    Bizarre News

    A Fort Myers woman was arrested Tuesday after police saw her snorting cocaine off her iPhone while in the parent pick-up line at a Lee County middle school.

    Christina Hester, 39, faces two different drug-related charges, according to police records. [Lee County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Tropical Storm Harvey forms in Atlantic

    Hurricanes

    UPDATE: At 5 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  4. Editorial: Pinellas should join lawsuit challenging new state law

    Editorials

    The Florida Legislature has been on a cynical, constitutionally dubious quest to render local school boards powerless. The most direct assault is a new state law that strips school boards of much of their authority when it comes to the creation and funding of charter schools. It's time for the Pinellas County School …

  5. Editorial: Fix funding unfairness in Florida foster care system

    Editorials

    Many of the children in Florida's foster care system already have been failed by their parents. The last thing these kids need is to be failed by bureaucracy, too, and yet that's exactly what appears to be happening because of a needlessly rigid funding formula set up by the Florida Legislature. Child welfare agencies …

    The Legislature may have had good intentions when it came up with the funding plan, but it’s obvious that there is some unfairness built into it. The funding may be complicated, but the goal is simple: Making sure every child in need gets the help he or she needs.