By: Scott McCabe
Two U.S. Army sergeants serving in Afghanistan have been charged with helping to steal $1.6 million worth of fuel after authorities discovered boxes stuffed with cash.
Staff Sgt. Stevan Ringo, 26, and Sgt. Michael Dugger, 27, were charged Monday in federal court in Alexandria with conspiracy to steal government property.
The soldiers were stationed just south of Kabul at a key military base in the reconstruction and counterinsurgency efforts. Ringo was responsible for fuel storage and distribution, and Dugger was responsible for the upkeep of Army vehicles and equipment.
Prosecutors said the duo doctored fuel records to let the fuel delivery contractor drive off with more than 100 truckloads — or 550,000 gallons of fuel — worth $1.6 million.
On Feb. 14, soldiers were performing a routine cleaning of Dugger’s office when they opened two boxes containing $169,000 in U.S. currency. After further investigation, authorities found another wooden box in the mortuary offices, containing $200,000.
When investigators questioned Ringo, he said he was forced to take part in the fuel theft because he believed the Afghan contractor who was paying him was a terrorist who would hurt him or his family.
Ringo admitted that the contractor paid him $3,500 per truck of stolen fuel, according to charging documents.
“It started as once a week, then twice a week and then damn every day,” Ringo told investigators. Ringo estimated that he received about $386,000 in less than four months.
Prosecutors said Ringo also received a television set, telephone cards and two black bags full of new watches.
Ringo told his interrogators that he was the only soldier involved and asked authorities to not punish Dugger, court document said.
Dugger told investigators that Ringo was in it for the money, and that Ringo hoped to make $1 million.
Both men face up to five years in prison if convicted. Dugger’s lawyer had no comment. Ringo’s attorney did not return a phone message to his office. Last year, authorities in Iraq uncovered a ring that stole nearly $40 million worth of fuel from a U.S. Army base. An Annandale man admitted to driving the trucks outside the camp and turning them over to Iraqi drivers
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