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May 2010
Tim Bilecki

Army SFC Cleared of Larceny After Allegedly Gambling Away $250K Military Funds

Larceny of Military Property, False Official Statement, Dereliction of Duty
Yongsan, Korea
Army Sergeant First Class - E-7
Not Guilty of all larceny and false official statement charges.

Maximum Sentence:

  • DD
  • 11 years 6 months confinement
  • Total forfeiture
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Federal felony conviction

Our client, an Army Sergeant First Class was found NOT GUILTY at trial after being charged at a general court martial with larceny, false official statement and dereliction of duty.  The government alleged that our client stole over a quarter million dollars in cash out of a military disbursing section cash vault and allegedly lost it all playing high stakes Baccarat at a local casino.

Initially, the evidence seemed almost insurmountable; the Sergeant First Class was the cash-disbursing officer for the finance office at Yongsan Army Garrison, Korea and the only individual with access to an extremely secure vault. When the Soldier took over responsibility for the vault, it contained over $250,000 cash; a few days later, the he called his command and confessed to taking the money out of the vault and gambling it away at a local casino.

A subsequent cash count revealed that the vault was nearly empty and over a quarter-million dollars was missing. Potentially more damning were gambling records obtained by the government that revealed that, during the time the money went missing, the Soldier was playing $10,000+ hands of Baccarat and lost over $250,000 at the casino. The government thought this was a done deal, and nearly everyone questioned why the defense pled not guilty and took this case to trial.

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The defense team, led by Tim Bilecki, an established Article 121 UCMJ larceny attorney in Korea, believed the client, a Cambodian national and Khmer Rouge survivor, had an outstanding extenuation and mitigation case based on his family background. In search of alternate defenses and to solidify the extenuation and mitigation case, both Mr. Bilecki and military counsel traveled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to meet the client’s family and ferret out a possible duress defense. Bilecki steered the prosecution toward the Cambodia/duress defense but utilized a completely different tactic at trial.

The defense never backed down or gave in to numerous plea agreements offered by the prosecution and subsequently won a motion suppressing a good portion of  our client’s confession on the grounds that he was not properly advised of his Article 31(b) rights. We were also successful in keeping all casino records and video footage out of trial. With the government so concerned with what we may or may not have discovered in Cambodia, and without the confession or casino records, Bilecki put the command on trial, exposed the sloppy security procedures of the cash vault which implicated a Korean national who was in control of the vault immediately before our client took over.

The defense made a case that the Korean national continued to have access to the vault after she turned it over to our client. After nearly six days of trial, the panel found our client not guilty of all the larceny charges and Not Guilty of all false official statement charges in less than one hour. Our client continued to serve and later retired honorably from the US Army.

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