A female soldier smuggled $1million from Afghanistan and spent the cash on plastic surgery, a vacation and an 18-wheeler truck and trailer, a court has heard.
Tonya Long, 30, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, was sentenced on Monday to five years in prison and has been ordered to pay back the money she stole.
Long, who also goes by Tonya Long-Keebaugh, was convicted of bulk cash smuggling and aiding and abetting the same crime in what authorities called a double-billing kickback scheme. Authorities said she worked with a co-conspirator who hasn’t been named.
The Fort Bragg-based soldier was a staff sergeant assigned to 189th Combat sustainment Battalion attached to the 7th Special Forces Group. She was based in Afghanistan from January 2008 to April 2009.
During her deployment, she served as transportation management coordinator and customs inspector and was responsible for inspecting troops’ personal property before it was loaded into containers for shipment to the United States.
Authorities say her co-conspirator collected the money, though it’s not clear where from and whether they were stealing from their fellow soldiers.
The cassettes were flown into Pope Air Force Base near Fort Bragg where they were reportedly watched by armed guards.
Once she landed in America, Long picked up the packages and brought them back to the apartment that she shared with her co-conspirator.
The series of thefts happened in January and February 2009, US Attorney Thomas Walker’s office said.
Long cleared the containers through customs herself, and they were then shipped in connex shipping containers.
Neither Long nor the other person declared the currency upon entry into the U.S. Authorities said she acted with the intent to evade the currency reporting requirements.
‘Tonya Long betrayed her team and while other soldiers were fighting for our country, she was stealing money intended to support the mission,’ Walker said.
‘Her conduct undermined her fellow soldiers and our nation’s reputation. This sentence demonstrates that conduct like this will not be tolerated.’
Federal authorities filed criminal information last Friday against the woman and prosecutors said they were hoping to seize any property Long purchased with the smuggled cash.
Long will have three years of supervised release following her prison sentence, which was handed down by U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle in Elizabeth City.
The Fayetteville Observer reports that another person- thought to be the co-conspirator but that is unconfirmed- is being charged in the case but those records are sealed.