From 2000 to 2010, thousands of California National Guard members improperly or illegally received enlistment incentive payments. Guard audits to date have found that at least 115 service members – most of them officers – committed fraud or acted improperly.

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As the dark steel arm of the excavator hung in the air – its claw clamped firmly around a mass of debris – retired Col. John Scully shielded his eyes from the afternoon sun.
Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Lt. Col. David Kauffman on Wednesday as the first independent inspector general of the California Military Department, which includes the National Guard.
The inspector general of the state's Military Department will have more independence and National Guard members who blow the whistle on misconduct will have more protections under a bill Gov. Jerry Bill signed Friday.
The state Legislature approved a bill Friday that would increase independence for the inspector general of the California Military Department, which includes the National Guard, and augment protections for Guard members or employees who become whistle-blowers.
Three California Army National Guard captains pleaded guilty to misdemeanor fraud Tuesday in cases involving incentive payments in return for service commitments. Each faces up to a year in prison, fines and restitution of funds stolen.
The California National Guard benefits manager at the center of a massive fraud involving thousands of improper payments to Guard members was sentenced to 30 months in prison Wednesday.

In October, The Bee found evidence of up to $100 million in improper or fraudulent bonuses and student loan repayments for California Army National Guard members. The story sparked scrutiny from political and military leaders and an examination of such programs in all 50 states. The incentive programs are the subject of a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice, FBI and other federal agencies.

More recent Bee investigations examine evidence of improper payments to Air National Guard pilots and problems in the air alert system they staff, and decades-long neglect of a key Guard training base.

The California National Guard is a vital institution that safeguards our state. Most of its members perform selflessly and maintain high ethical standards. But the Bee will continue to report on financial and leadership lapses as they come to light. If you are a Guard member or for other reasons understand important information about the Guard, please share your insights with us.



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Contribute to The Bee’s reporting about the California National Guard -- on or off the record -- by calling The Bee’s Charles Piller at (916) 321-1113 or emailing him at cpiller@sacbee.com.



Massive fraud at California Guard, officials allege

From 1986 until her retirement, Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe's job with the California Army National Guard was to give away money - the federally subsidized student-loan repayments and cash bonuses the Guard is supposed to use to tempt new recruits and entice Guard members to sign on for another stint.

Instead, according to a Guard auditor turned federal whistle-blower, as much as $100 million has gone to soldiers who didn't qualify for the incentives.

For years, the auditor and other Guard officials allege in interviews or internal documents obtained by The Bee, California's incentives program was operated as a slush fund, doled out improperly to hundreds of soldiers with fabricated paperwork, scant supervision and little regard for the law.

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