TAMPA — Travis DeVall once described himself as a military recruiter "on steroids."
He starred in a 2009 Army Times article touting the success of the Army National Guard Recruiting Assistance program, which paid the retired service member up to $5,000 for each new recruit he found.
But the program buckled under widespread fraud, and now DeVall — a former top producer — faces federal charges that he claimed $78,000 in bonuses he didn't deserve.
He took credit for finding and mentoring recruits he had not even met, the government alleges.
DeVall, 47, of Tampa was arrested Wednesday, accused of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, theft of government property and funds and aggravated identity theft, according to a June 24 indictment made public Thursday. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. He could not be reached for comment.
If convicted of aggravated identity theft, he faces at least two years in prison. Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years. The government also intends to seek a judgment against DeVall for $78,000, court records state.
The fraud is alleged to have occurred from 2006 to 2010. The Army Times article, published Feb. 8, 2009, stated that the master sergeant had once been a full-time recruiter for the Army and National Guard, enlisting 600 people. Then, after retirement, he earned $192,000 by recruiting 112 soldiers as a recruiting assistant, the publication stated. That's the role that led to scrutiny.
He was paid $1,000 if a recruit enlisted, $1,000 more if the recruit shipped out to basic training and $3,000 if the recruit became a commissioned officer.
The commission program was managed by a private contractor, Document & Packaging Brokers.
The government alleges that co-conspirators gave DeVall the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of people who were interested in military service, and he entered the information online. The indictment does not state whether the co-conspirators were military or civilian.
In May, the publication Military Times described a Texas conspiracy in which a former Guard recruiter — who later became a recruiting assistant — offered to pay full-time recruiters for identities of enlistees so that he could take credit and claim bonuses. Full-time recruiters could not collect bonuses.
A hearing led by Missouri Sen. Clair McCaskill in February pointed to the likelihood of $50 million to $100 million in fraud in the $459 million program, which was in existence from 2006 to 2012.
Contact Patty Ryan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.