WASHINGTON, March 17 (UPI) -- An Army staff sergeant was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing $1 million from the government in a scam while she was serving in Afghanistan.
Tonya Long, a 13-year Army veteran, pleaded guilty to stealing at least $1 million in cash payments meant for Afghan drivers of trucks delivering supplies to U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reported.
During a hearing on March 4, prosecutors said Long would steal the money, then ship the money, stuffed in VCRs, to Pope Field, N.C., where the packages were picked up by a captain working with Long.
The money was then locked in safes at the captain's apartment near Fort Bragg.
Long spent more than $500,000 on a car, an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, vacations and cosmetic surgeries, prosecutors said.
"I cannot express how sorry I am ... I chose to betray my country and my family," Long said during the hearing. She told U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle that she would not ask for mercy "because I don't deserve it."
Boyle speculated that Long and her suspected accomplices may have actually stolen $10 million or more, suggesting that such thefts in Afghanistan by U.S. soldiers began at the start of the U.S. mission in the country more than a decade ago.
"I can't disagree with that," said FBI Special Agent Timothy G. Gannon, who investigated Long.
Boyle sentenced Long to five years in prison plus three years supervised release. He also ordered her to pay back the $1 million.
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