Crime - Sacto 911

Elk Grove man sentenced in National Guard recruiting fraud

An Elk Grove man was sentenced Tuesday to two years and six months in prison for fraudulently obtaining bonuses in a California National Guard recruitment program.

At the conclusion of a seven-day trial in January, Richard C. Sihner, 54, was found guilty of 16 counts of wire fraud related to a scheme to receive unearned recruiting bonuses for California National Guard enlistees. The jury also convicted Sihner of one count of making false statements to a federal agent.

He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez, who rejected the suggestion that any blame rested with others involved in the process, according to a U.S. attorney’s office news release.

Sihner, a retired member of the California National Guard, participated in the Guard Recruiter Assistant Program. The Army contracted with Document and Packaging Broker Inc. to administer the program. California National Guard members served as recruiting assistants. If an assistant referred a potential Guard member to a recruiting office and that person ultimately enlisted, the recruiting assistant was eligible to receive monetary compensation disbursed by Document and Packaging Broker Inc.

Recruiting assistants typically received a $1,000 payment when a nominee enlisted and a second $1,000 payment when the nominee left for boot camp. The program was ultimately discontinued after widespread fraud was discovered. Recruits who walked into recruiting offices on their own initiative and were not referred by a recruiting assistant were claimed by corrupt recruiting assistants, often with the aid of corrupt recruiters, authorities said.

According to evidence presented during the trial, from Dec. 27, 2007, to April 16, 2010, Sihner was a recruiting assistant in the program. A recruiter gave him information about new recruits so Sihner could falsely claim to have referred them. Sihner made false claims and wrote elaborate falsehoods on Document and Packaging Inc.’s online portal indicating that he had referred the recruits.

Sihner was paid $95,000 in compensation after claiming to have referred 51 potential soldiers. But of the 39 recruits federal agents contacted prior to indictment, none had been referred to the Guard by Sihner, authorities said. When confronted, Sihner lied to federal law enforcement agents investigating the fraud, repeatedly claiming that he had personally referred all of the recruits and had taken them to the recruiting office to introduce them, authorities said.

Other National Guard members and recruiters have been charged in similar recruiting fraud schemes in the Eastern District of California. Four defendants have been convicted by a jury or have pleaded guilty and await sentencing:

▪ Brian Kaps, 42, of Chico pleaded guilty Nov. 21, 2014, to one count of wire fraud. He is to be sentenced Aug. 18.

▪ Sarah Nattress, 28, of Paradise pleaded guilty Oct. 23, 2014, to one count of wire fraud. She is to be sentenced May 26.

▪ Nicholas Huerta, 33, of Fresno pleaded guilty Sept. 14, 2015, to one count of wire fraud. His sentencing is set for Nov. 14.

▪ Joaquin Cuenca, 38, of San Diego was a recruiter. A jury on Feb. 2 found him guilty of three counts of wire fraud related to fraudulent bonuses. He is to be sentenced July 18.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy