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Calif. National Guard fund probed

SACRAMENTO, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- The California Army National Guard improperly awarded payments and cash bonuses meant to entice members to re-enlist, an investigation says.

As much as $100 million in federally subsidized student-loan repayments and re-enlistment bonuses allegedly went to soldiers who didn't qualify for the incentives, including some who got tens of thousands of dollars more than the program allows, The Sacramento Bee reported Sunday.

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A Guard auditor turned federal whistle-blower claims California's incentives program was run as a slush fund, paid out improperly to hundreds of soldiers with falsified paperwork with little supervision or regard for the law, the newspaper said.

Most student loan repayments were paid out from funds designated for combat vets but a large portion of those payments went to Guard members who hadn't served a day at war, Guard documents show.

The Bee said the documents indicate state Guard officials failed to take action despite years of warning signs.

Capt. Ronald S. Clark, a federal auditor who oversees funds spent by the California Guard, says the scale and audacity of the corruption shocked him, and he estimates $100 million was misspent.

He turned whistle-blower against what he called "war profiteering."

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"I don't like grifters," Clark said. "And I'm disgusted -- at times, ashamed -- to wear the same uniform as those who steal taxpayer funds or protect thieves."

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