Fraud Crack Down
The Army is taking steps to crack down on Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) Fraud. By conducting random audits and targeted investigations, the Army is zeroing in on soldiers that they believe have committed a crime.
Soldiers typically get caught engaging in fraud through audits of housing allotments and when the command or law enforcement compares Leave and Earning Statements with other documents, revealing a discrepancy. The typical methods of BAH/OHA Fraud are the following:
1. Using a false home of record to get a higher BAH Rate – BAH rates are set by location, pay grade and dependency status. For example, an E-6 with dependents claiming San Francisco, California as his home of record would receive $2,766.00 under the 2010 BAH rates. If that same E-6 claimed his dependents instead lived in Killeen, Texas he would only receive $1,116.00. BAH is a lump sum entitlement, meaning that a soldier can pocket the difference between their set allowance and the rent they pay;
2. Dependent-rate BAH claimed when there are no dependents – (typically claiming to still be married when the soldier is actually divorced with no children);
3. Using a false rental agreement to get a higher OHA rate – OHA is used to cover rent or mortgage, but unlike BAH, soldiers can’t pocket the difference;
In the past two years, there has been a substantial increase in BAH/OHA fraud cases. The vast majority of these cases involve amounts taken in the range of $15,000 to more than $60,000. The offenders come from both enlisted and officer ranks.
Crime and punishment
The Army believes that it is the soldier’s responsibility to properly report their family and living situation to ensure a correct entitlement. If the Army believes that you have fraudulently received BAH or OHA entitlements, they will typically charge you with larceny (of the amount not entitled) and submitting a false official statement (submitting a false BAH/OHA authorization form). In order to be convicted of either offense, the government must prove that you knew that you were not entitled to receive the money and that you kept it with the intent of never returning it. The government also must prove that you knowingly completed a BAH/OHA form with the intent to deceive.
Occasionally, there will be an honest mistake where you did the right thing and through some circumstance did not notice an overpayment for a given time period. In these cases, you should not be charged with a crime, but merely required to pay the money back. The government does not always look into the innocent possibilities when dealing with BAH/OHA Fraud.
Mr. Coombs has successfully defended both officer and enlisted soldiers faced with BAH/OHA Fraud charges. He knows how to put forth your best defense, and ensure that every possible angle is explored. If you are being investigated for BAH/OHA fraud, get ahead of the game by contacting Mr. Coombs for a free consultation.