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IG: One-star guardsman scammed nearly $200K

Jan. 13, 2014 - 01:26PM   |  
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A one-star general and former commander of the Michigan Air National Guard improperly received nearly $200,000 and broke the law by collecting a federal paycheck while performing a state-level job for 16 months, according to a newly released IG report.

Brig. Gen. Richard G. Elliot, Michigan’s former Air adjutant general, also “used his public office for private gain” when he approved his own time and attendance records while serving as the state’s top Air Guard official, the IG investigation found.

Elliot also received nearly $20,000 in temporary duty travel money that was unwarranted, the IG found.

Before taking command of the state’s Air Guard, Elliot served as a full-time guardsman, known as a “federal military technician,” commanding the 127th Wing of the Air National Guard. In that position, he received a federal paycheck.

In December 2005, he was appointed to serve as the Air adjutant general and commander of the Michigan Air National Guard, making him a full-time employee of the state.

But in an effort to quality for retirement benefits, Elliot failed to terminate his federal position as required by law and instead continued to approve his own time and attendance records. As a result, he received more than $194,000, the IG found.

At the time Elliot was appointed to command the state Air Guard in December 2005, he was eight months shy of qualifying for a military technician’s retirement package.

Elliot also claimed more than $19,000 in temporary duty travel money, approving his own travel claims, the IG said. In 21 trips, Elliot violated regulations by claiming TDY money for trips to Lansing, Mich., which was technically his duty station and therefore not authorized for TDY reimbursement, the IG said.

When he submitted the paperwork for that money, Elliot “signed the vouchers himself as both the claimant and the supervisor,” the IG said.

Elliot denied any wrongdoing and told the IG’s investigators that other Michigan officials were “responsible for the proper submission of all required paperwork and approvals.”

But the Defense Department’s IG found Elliot’s response unconvincing. “After carefully considering Brig. Gen. Elliott’s response, we stand by our conclusions,” the IG report said.

Military Times was unable to reach Elliot for comment Monday.

The IG report was released for the first time Monday following a Freedom of Information Act request from Military Times.

The investigation ultimately lasted five years and was completed in April 2012. The IG completed an initial probe in 2009 and referred the matter to criminal authorities, but federal prosecutors declined to prosecute and recommended the case be handled administratively.

The IG recommended that the secretary of the Air Force review the case and consider trying to recoup some money from Elliot and also to determine whether he is eligible for retirement benefits in light of the investigation.

A spokeswoman for Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James was unable to say Monday whether her office had taken any action regarding Elliot’s case.

The IG probe found that Elliot’s boss, Maj. Gen. Thomas Cutler, then Michigan’s adjutant general, knew that Elliot was trying to reach his retirement date and sought to help Elliot remain on the books as a military technician.

Michigan officials said Elliot did not go on the Michigan state payroll until August 2006, or about seven months after he began performing the role of commander of the state Air Guard.

Cutler formally terminated Elliot as a federally paid military technician in April 2007, about seven months after Elliot became retirement eligible, according to the IG report.

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