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Airman court-martialed for larceny and false official statements

Judge Advocate Badge, U.S. Air Force graphic.  Image is 7x6 inches @ 300 ppi.

Judge Advocate Badge, U.S. Air Force graphic. Image is 7x6 inches @ 300 ppi.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Vandenberg Airman was convicted of numerous incidents of larceny and false official statements in a trial by general court-martial here May 8.

Staff Sgt. Harold Pettigrew was charged with seven instances of larceny of government funds, totaling more than $38,000, in violation of Article 121 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, as well as seven instances of false official statements, in violation of Article 107 of the UCMJ.

Sergeant Pettigrew pled guilty and chose to be sentenced by a panel of commissioned officers and enlisted members. Capt. Anna Waltman, 30th Space Wing Assistant Staff Judge Advocate, and Capt. John Harwood, Senior Trial Counsel from Nellis AFB, prosecuted the case for the government. Capt. Matthew Talcott, Area Defense Counsel from Nellis AFB, represented the accused.

Sergeant Pettigrew's submitted fraudulent finance forms over the course of more than four years, in order to obtain financial benefits under the false pretense that he was either supporting, cohabitating or traveling with his estranged wife at certain respective periods. The fraudulent forms led to the improper payment of more than $38,000 in unwarranted benefits, including: the "with dependent" increase to his Basic Allowance for Housing , Family Separation Allowance during temporary duty periods, and family member per diem during various permanent change of station moves.

Investigation revealed, and Staff Sergeant Pettigrew subsequently admitted at trial, that he had not financially supported his estranged wife over the years, she had not lived with him at any of the addresses that he claimed on the forms, and she had not traveled with him in connection with any of the claimed PCS moves.

Sergeant Pettigrew was found guilty of all charges and specifications and the panel members were called in for the sentencing hearing.

Prior to sentencing deliberations, the panel heard sworn testimony from a local finance official as well as Sergeant Pettigrew's commander. Additionally, the defense presented an unsworn oral presentation by Sergeant Pettigrew and numerous supportive character letters, awards and decorations. Finally, the panel heard oral arguments from Captains Waltman and Talcott.

The maximum sentence for the charged crimes includes a dishonorable discharge, the worst military discharge characterization, and a total of up to 87 years of possible confinement. In light of all the circumstances and considerations, both the prosecutors and the defense argued for significantly lower punishments. Ultimately, Sergeant Pettigrew received a federal conviction, reduction to the rank of Senior Airman, and a punitive bad conduct discharge.