Ex-Guard sergeant from Citrus Heights admits role in bonus fraud

The California National Guard's former bonus and incentives manager has admitted submitting $15.2 million in false and fraudulent claims to the United States Department of Defense.

Retired Master Sgt. Toni L. Jaffe, 52, made the admission as part of a plea agreement filed Monday in federal court in Los Angeles, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

For more than 15 years, Jaffe, a Citrus Heights resident, was the bonus and incentives manager for the California National Guard. As part of her plea agreement, Jaffe admitted that from 2007 to October 2009, she routinely submitted false claims on behalf of her fellow Guard members.

According to the plea agreement, Jaffe admits responsibility for $15.2 million in wrongfully paid bonuses and loan repayments. An audit of the full loss amount is ongoing, according to the news release.

The plea agreement was filed with a criminal charge that could result in a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment, a fine of $250,000 and two times the gross gain or gross loss and three years of supervised release. As part of her plea agreement, the defendant also is required to pay restitution, currently estimated to be $15.2 million, to the United States.

A Bee investigation last October found evidence of up to $100 million in improper or illegal bonuses and student loan repayments for California National Guard members. The story sparked scrutiny from elected officials, the National Guard Bureau and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Federal officials said their investigation is continuing.