U.S. Military Lawyer - The Law Office of Stephen P. Karns

BAH/Travel Voucher Fraud

BAH Fraud or Travel Voucher Fraud typically comprises two offenses – False Official Statement and Larceny. The reason for that is the service member completes a form, e.g., a travel voucher or BAH authorization, which is later claimed by the government to be false in some manner and by having completed the form incorrectly, the service member receives pay that he was not entitled to receive. If you are in this situation, you need an experienced military attorney, such as Mr. Karns, to help you resolve the matter.

For one to be found guilty of False Official Statement, the government must prove that the service member completed the form with the intent to deceive. That is, it is not enough for the government to merely show that the service member completed the form incorrectly. For example, a service member can make a mistake in completing a travel voucher or BAH authorization thus making it false, but may not be guilty of false official statement if it was an honest mistake or done without the intent to deceive.

For one to be found guilty of Larceny, the government must prove that the service member received money that he knew he was not entitled to receive and kept that money with the intent of never returning it. That is, it is not enough for the government to show that the service member merely received money that he was not entitled to receive, rather the government must prove that the service member knew that he received money that he was not entitled to receive. Continuing with the example from above, if a service member makes an honest mistake in completing the form and thus receives money that he believes he is entitled to receive, then he would not be guilty of False Official Statement or Larceny.

Unfortunately, often the government is eager to initiate UCMJ action against a service member once it learns that the service member is receiving money to which he is not entitled. This is because it assumes that the service member intended to defraud the government. Mr. Karns has the experience to know how difficult it can be for the government to prove the elements of its case discussed above. It is imperative to have an experienced military attorney such as Mr. Karns examine the government’s evidence. BAH authorizations and travel vouchers are not always easy to complete. Many service members have unique situations; however, when they seek advice, they get a global answer that does not fit their particular situation. This can cause the service member to make an honest mistake when completing military forms. To complicate matters, it is not unusual for a service member to receive bad advice from DFAS personnel or from the person in their unit who is designated to assist in these matters.

This offense has always been prosecuted by the military, but prosecutions are increasing due to a greater number of reservists being activated for the Global War on Terror. Reservists are often less familiar with the forms because they do not complete them as often, or they have supervisors who are not familiar with them. Mr. Karns is experienced and well prepared to advise and defend you in these types of cases.


Past Cases

Client was an E-6 in the Air Force and was charged with BAH fraud in the amount of $97,000. Client received accompanied tour orders to Mildenhall AFB; however, he PCS’d alone because his wife’s visa was not ready. After he arrived, he modified his orders reflecting that his wife did not travel with him which made him eligible for BAH based on her location at Elmendorf AFB and OHA for his rent at Mildenhall. When Client’s wife arrived six weeks later, Client did not stop his BAH, and he continued to collect $1,800/month in BAH along with his OHA for the next four years. When Client PCS’d to Minot AFB, Finance noticed that Client was collecting BAH for his wife despite her location at Mildenhall. Client hired Attorney Karns for the Art. 32 hearing and court-martial where Client was found not guilty after the panel deliberated for 30 minutes.

Client was an activated reserve SGT in the Army with nine years of service who was under investigation for BAH fraud. The government alleged Client changed his home of record address to his friend’s house in San Francisco right before his activation in order to collect a higher BAH. Client received an extra $20,000 during his activation. The investigation revealed that Client’s dependents remained at his previous address. Subsequent to being questioned by CID, Client hired Attorney Karns to represent him. Attorney Karns contacted the Client’s command and the trial counsel who agreed to give Client an Art. 15 and an Honorable Discharge.

Client was a PFC in the Army accused of fraud for loading his truck with patio stones for a DITY move to his next training school. His command initiated an investigation against him. Client hired Attorney Karns to defend him. Client’s goal was to move on as quickly as possible so as not to miss the opportunity of attending his next school. Attorney Karns negotiated with Client’s command and his legal advisor for a reduced punishment: Client received a company grade Art. 15, no reduction in rank, no records were placed in his file, and he was allowed to PCS, which he did six weeks after the initial allegation.

Client was an Army Sergeant at Fort Carson who came under investigation for BAH fraud because he bragged to a classmate while they were on TDY training that he was still receiving BAH even though he had been divorced for several months. The classmate reported Client’s remarks to command who notified CID. After Client confessed to CID, he hired Mr. Karns to represent him. Attorney Karns contacted Client’s command and persuaded command to issue an Art. 15 rather than prosecute after Client voluntarily repaid the wrongfully obtained $12,000 of BAH. Furthermore, the command agreed not to administratively separate Client.

Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army was in Europe on a two-year unaccompanied tour. He came under investigation for BAH fraud because he continued to collect several thousand dollars in BAH pay based on his family remaining in CONUS even though his family had moved to Europe for more than the allowable ninety days. Client only received a Letter of Reprimand at a Company Grade Article 15 which the commander agreed to file locally. Client PCS’d without having his career impacted.

BM1 in the Coast Guard was charged at a Special Court-Martial for filing fraudulent travel vouchers for over a one year time span in the amount thirty-eight thousand dollars. Mr. Karns negotiated with the convening authority to reduce Client’s charges to a summary court-martial and an administrative separation. Client was separated without a conviction or jail time.

Air Force Captain was reassigned on a remote tour to Korea. Upon his arrival, he completed a Basic Allowance for Quarters authorization form indicating that his wife and kids lived in California at his father’s home when they actually lived in Arizona. As his one-year tour came to an end, and after collecting approximately $20,000 more in BAH allowances than he was entitled to, Client completed a PCS notification form stating that his family was in California and would need to relocate to Arizona. During an audit, OSI found that Client’s family never lived in California. Subsequently, Client was charged with larceny of government property and two specifications of false official statement (BAH form and PCS form). Client hired Mr. Karns to represent him at his court-martial in Korea, and he was found “Not Guilty” of the larceny and of one specification of false official statement (BAH form), but “Guilty” on the remaining specification of false official statement (PCS form). Client was reprimanded, sentenced to fourteen days of confinement and a dismissal. Client successfully appealed to the USAF Court of Criminal Appeals, which set aside the finding of guilt and sentence on the lone specification of false official statement (PCS form) and granted a rehearing. Client pled not guilty at the rehearing where Mr. Karns represented him at Luke AFB, and he was found “Not Guilty.” Because Client was ultimately found “Not Guilty” of all charges, he will receive back pay for the time he was on appellate leave, and his promotion to Major will be backdated since he was already selected for Major when he was first charged.

Air Force Staff Sergeant was investigated by OSI for AWOL, dereliction of duty, false official statement, and submission of $35,627.26 in travel vouchers to the U.S. Government, $5,669.62 of which were found to be fraudulent. Client’s case was referred for action to her commander, who agreed to impose an Article 15 in lieu of a court-martial. Mr. Karns convinced Client’s commander to give her a “suspended bust,” meaning that he suspended her loss of rank. Mr. Karns also convinced the commander to decline to impose any forfeiture of pay, restriction, or extra duty. If Client successfully completes her suspension period, she will not lose any rank, and it is possible her commander will decline to file a referral Enlisted Performance Review (EPR), enabling her to test for a promotion and walk away from the incident with essentially no punishment or significant career damage.

Army Reservist Major was charged with seven specifications of larceny and seven specifications of making false claims (travel vouchers) against the government for rent paid during his activation. According to CID, Client claimed for reimbursement double the amount of rent that he actually paid to a friend from which he rented. CID interviewed Client’s friend who made incriminating statements which corroborated that Client paid less in rent than he claimed on his travel vouchers. Client faced up to fifteen years confinement and a Dismissal if convicted. After charges were preferred, Client hired Attorney Karns, who helped Client develop a defense which included a sufficient number of canceled checks payable to his friend to substantiate that Client had paid rent in an amount that corresponded to his vouchers. After negotiating with Attorney Karns the prosecutor agreed to dismiss all charges. Client suffered no adverse action in his official military records, avoided jail time, a federal conviction, and the possibility of a Dismissal.

Army Reservist Lieutenant hired Attorney Karns once she learned she was under investigation for submitting approximately $117,000 in fraudulent travel vouchers after her activation. The investigation revealed that Client, for approximately two years, claimed she lived at her mother’s house near Washington, D.C. (a high BAH area), when she actually lived in a home she owned in St. Louis (a lower BAH area). Client’s command referred her case to a general court-martial where she could have received up to thirty years confinement and a Dismissal. After her Art. 32 hearing, Client requested Attorney Karns to negotiate with her command to see if the matter could be settled. Attorney Karns convinced Client’s command to agree to dismiss the charges and give her an Article 15 if she made restitution. At the Article 15 hearing, Client received a letter of reprimand and no additional punishment.


Army Sergeant First Class was a reservist who was activated after 9/11. Upon activation, she was entitled to file travel vouchers to collect per diem and a housing allowance for her new living quarters while activated. After an Army Internal Review, CID reviewed the Client’s travel vouchers and lease documentation and began an investigation. CID concluded that the Client did not live at the mobile home where she claimed to be living during her activation nor did Client pay the owner of the mobile home, her ex-mother-in-law, $3,000 per month as she claimed on her travel voucher and lease. Client was charged with False Official Statement, Larceny of government property, and Fraud Against the U.S. for wrongfully claiming over $90,000 in allowances. The possible punishment Client could have received was twenty years confinement, reduction to E-1, and a Dishonorable Discharge. Client hired Mr. Karns to represent her at her Article 32 hearing. After the Article 32 hearing, the Government agreed to dismiss all of the Client’s charges in exchange for her making restitution and receiving an Article 15. Client avoided jail time, a federal conviction, loss of rank, and the possibility of a Dishonorable Discharge.


Army Reservist Captain hired Attorney Karns once she learned she was under investigation for submitting approximately $90,000 in fraudulent travel vouchers after her activation. The investigation revealed that client, for approximately one year, claimed she paid “rent” on her travel vouchers to a property management company run by another officer. The investigation concluded that the property management company was a sham business and that the client actually purchased the property she claimed to be renting. Attorney Karns convinced her command to agree to a local General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR). Client mobilized to another location within one month of the GOMOR. Because the Client immediately mobilized and the allegations were from a period covered in an earlier OER rating period, her career was never affected.


Senior Master Sergeant charged with BAH Fraud and Travel Voucher Fraud (Four Specifications for False Official Statement and two for Larceny). Maximum possible punishment: 60 years confinement, Dishonorable Discharge, and reduction to E-1. After the Article 32 hearing, three specifications of False Official Statement were dropped. At court-martial, Client found Not Guilty of the remaining specifications and charges. Client was two years away from retiring and retirement was saved.


Air Force Staff Sergeant was under investigation for AWOL, Dereliction of Duty, False Official Statement, and Making a Fraudulent Claim for approximately $6,000. After discussions with Client’s command and JAG, Attorney Karns convinced the command to resolve the charges with an Article 15 and a suspended reduction in rank and reprimand. Client has twelve years of service, will still be able to retire, and will be promotion eligible prior to her retirement.



* Past results achieved are not a guarantee of future results. Each case is unique and reference must be made to the specific legal and factual circumstances presented.


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