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Former MacDill contract worker accused of having weapons stash at base

TAMPA — When Tampa police arrested military contractor Scott Allan Bennett last year on a charge of driving under the influence, he gave them his home address inside MacDill Air Force Base.

It's a home address that Air Force police say he lied to obtain and then used to store unregistered weapons.

Bennett, now 40 and living near Washington, D.C., was arrested Wednesday on federal charges, according to his attorney, David Chalela. He will appear Friday in U.S. District Court in Tampa.

"It was a failure to follow policy and procedures," said Master Sgt. Bryan Gatewood, a MacDill spokesman. "It was not a security breach."

It all started early on April 23, according to the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. Bennett was stopped for a random vehicle check at the base's Dale Mabry gates. Gate officers found two knives and an empty gun holster, according to an affidavit filed last month.

Tampa police were called in to deal with Bennett, who "appeared dazed and confused during the inspection," the affidavit said. Bennett refused a blood alcohol test and was charged with driving under the influence.

During the arrest search, police found Bennett was carrying a loaded, concealed handgun, the affidavit said. Carrying concealed weapons is prohibited on the base.

They found more weapons inside his car: another loaded handgun, three knives, a box of throwing stars, a machete, a collapsible baton, a slingshot with BBs and Mace.

Bennett was released from jail after posting a $500 bond that day. When he returned to the base that afternoon, he was taken into custody by Air Force police.

Using a search warrant, Air Force police discovered seven loaded guns, 9,389 rounds of ammunition, knives, brass knuckles, a stun gun, a collapsible baton and other weapons inside Bennett's on-base residence, the affidavit said — none of them registered with the base armory as required.

During the investigation, Air Force police learned Bennett had lied last January to obtain on-base housing, which the affidavit said is only available to active-duty military personnel stationed within 25 miles of MacDill.

Bennett's job at Booz Allen Hamilton, a McLean, Va., strategy and technology consulting firm, provided credentials to enter the base. But it wasn't enough, the affidavit said, for him to live at MacDill.

Bennett is an Army Reservist but had not been on active duty, the affidavit said. He claimed to be on orders from U.S. Central Command, which is headquartered at MacDill, but the affidavit said he never showed paperwork to confirm active-duty status.

Chalela, the defense attorney, said Bennett sought on-base housing without knowing the restrictions and didn't get around to filing the right forms for his guns.

"They're making a federal case out of an administrative error," he said.

Bennett has been charged with making a false statement on a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the U.S. government and violating a defense property security regulation. The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years, U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Amy Filjones said.

Clark Realty, a private company that manages housing at MacDill, referred questions to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Representatives of MacDill and the U.S. Attorney's Office would not comment on specifics of the case because of the ongoing investigation.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this story. Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

Former MacDill contract worker accused of having weapons stash at base 01/07/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 7, 2011 10:47pm]
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