Military News

Monday, November 04, 2019

U.S. Navy Officer, His Wife, and Two Chinese Nationals Charged with Conspiring to Smuggle Military Style Inflatable Boats and Evinrude Military Outboard Motors to China

Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida announces the return of an indictment today of four individuals, including two Chinese nationals, an active-duty United States Navy officer, and his wife, on charges relating to a conspiracy to unlawfully smuggle military-style inflatable boats, with Evinrude MFE military outboard motors, to the People’s Republic of China.  The Navy officer and two other defendants have also been charged with conspiring to violate firearms law, and the Navy officer has been charged with an additional firearms-related offense and with making false official statements.

The four defendants charged in the indictment are:

Fan Yang, 34, a naturalized citizen of the United States and Lieutenant in the United States Navy residing in Jacksonville, Florida; Yang Yang, 33, wife of Fan Yang, and a naturalized citizen of the United States residing in Jacksonville, Florida; Ge Songtao, 49, a citizen and resident of the People’s Republic of China; and Zheng Yan, 27, a citizen and resident of the People’s Republic of China.

The defendants were arrested on Oct. 17, 2019, and are currently detained.

All four defendants have been charged with conspiring to submit false export information and to fraudulently attempt to export articles from the United States.  Additionally, Yang Yang, Ge Songtao, and Zheng Yan have been charged with causing the submission of false and misleading information into the U.S. Automated Export System, and fraudulently attempting to export seven vessels and eight engines.  If convicted for conspiracy or for the submission of false export information, the charged defendants each face a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.  If convicted on the attempted-smuggling charge, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Fan Yang, Yang Yang, and Ge Songtao are charged with other offenses as well.  All three have been charged with conspiring to violate laws prohibiting an alien admitted under a nonimmigrant visa from possessing a firearm and prohibiting the transfer of a firearm to a nonresident.  Fan Yang has also been charged with making a false statement to a firearms dealer, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment, and with making false official statements in his application for a security clearance, which carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.    

This case was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security; and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Coolican and Heather Schmidt, Senior Trial Attorney, Counterintelligence and Export Section, U.S. Department of Justice.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

U.S. Navy Commander and Lt. Commander Indicted In Connection with Insurance Fraud Scheme

SAN DIEGO – A federal grand jury in San Diego returned a superseding indictment today that charges U. S. Navy servicemembers Dr. Michael Villarroel, Paul Craig, and Christopher Toups with fraud, false claims and conspiracy to defraud the United States.  The charges arise from a scheme where the defendants filed fraudulent claims to obtain unearned benefits from the Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance Program (“TSGLI”).  

According to the indictment, the TSGLI program is an insurance program that compensates servicemembers who suffer serious and debilitating injuries while on active duty.  The program is funded by fees paid directly by individual service members and the Department of Defense.  According to the superseding indictment, Dr. Michael Villarroel, a Commander in the U.S. Navy, was the medical doctor for the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Expeditionary Support Unit One  (“EOD ESU One”) from  March 2010 through May 2013.  In that capacity, Dr. Villarroel knowingly signed off on false and fraudulent TSGLI applications on behalf of multiple servicemembers that were part of or connected to EOD ESU One.  Both Christopher Toups, a former Chief Petty Officer Construction Mechanic, and Paul Craig, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy, filed fraudulent TSLGI applications.   To support their applications, each defendant submitted fabricated applications that included forged signatures and altered hospital records.  According to the superseding indictment, Craig fraudulently collected $150,000 and Toups collected at least $100,000.

In addition to Christopher Toups, four other individuals were previously indicted in connection with this scheme.  Three of those individuals – Richard Cote, Earnest Thompson, and Kelene Meyer – have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and as part of their plea, admitted that the conspirators defrauded the TSGLI program of nearly $2 million.   According to the plea agreement, Meyer, a former nurse in the U.S. Navy, stated that Toups, Villarroel, and she received kickbacks for creating and filing the fraudulent TSGLI applications for other U.S. Navy servicemembers.  

DEFENDANTS                                  Case Number:            18CR1674

Dr. Michael Villarroel                        Age:  47                      Coronado, California

Paul Craig                                           Age:  46                      Austin, Texas

Christopher Toups                              Age: 42                             Woodstock, GA  


Count 1: 18 U.S.C. § 1349, Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud; Maximum Penalty 20 years in prison, $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution.

Counts 2-4: 18 U.S.C. § 1343, Wire Fraud; Maximum Penalty 20 years in prison, $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution 

Counts 5-7: 18 U.S.C. § 287, Making a False Claim; Maximum Penalty 5 years in prison, $250,000 fine 


Federal Bureau of Investigation

Naval Criminal Investigative Service

Veteran Affairs for the Office of Inspector General

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Arizona Truck Driver Sentenced to Two Years in Federal Prison for Causing Bus Crash that Left One Man Dead on Fort Irwin Army Base

          RIVERSIDE, California – An Arizona man has been sentenced to 24 months in federal prison for involuntary manslaughter in a fatal bus crash that happened after he parked his truck – without any lights or warning cones – in the middle of a highway on the Fort Irwin Army Base in the Mojave Desert.

          Steven Kilty, 52, of Apache Junction, Arizona, was sentenced late Monday afternoon by United States District Judge Jesus G. Bernal.

          After a five-day trial that ended in early October 2018, a federal jury found Kilty of involuntary manslaughter. The evidence presented at trial showed that Kilty, who was delivering a military tactical vehicle, arrived at Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin on June 1, 2014. Kilty had arrived at the base the night before his scheduled delivery, and he parked his tractor-trailer in the right lane of the road on Fort Irwin property. Kilty turned off the lights on the truck and, instead of putting out any safety triangle reflectors or turning on his hazard lights, he went to sleep in the berth of his truck – while the truck was still parked in the middle of the roadway.

          Just after 5 a.m. on June 2, prior to sunrise, a Victor Valley Transit Authority bus transporting commuters to Fort Irwin collided with the parked truck. As a result of the collision, Dail Lee Keiper, 62, of Barstow, was killed and seven people suffered significant injuries, including one man who lost his arm.

          “The death was the direct result of defendant’s decision to park the semi-truck loaded with an armored vehicle in the middle of a moving lane of traffic,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court. “Rather than a single isolated decision, the accident was the culmination of a number of reckless decisions made by (the) defendant.”

          The evidence presented at trial showed that Kilty was “grossly negligent” because his truck was blocking traffic on the roadway and he failed to place any warning reflectors, both of which are violations of the California Vehicle Code.

          Kilty was indicted in this case in March 2016. He initially was tried in this matter in late 2017, but a jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, and a mistrial was declared.

          This case was investigated by the FBI, California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, and the Fort Irwin Police Department.

          This matter was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Paul D. Levers and Assistant United States Attorney Jerry C. Yang of the Riverside Branch Office.