The scale of the potential fraud was “astounding” and ranks as one of the largest criminal probes in the Army’s history, said Senator Claire McCaskill, who held a hearing on the scandal.
An Army audit has found that more than 1,200 recruiters had received payments that were potentially fraudulent, defense officials said.
“We now know that thousands of service members, their families and friends, may have participated in schemes to defraud the government they served and the taxpayers,” McCaskill said.
The kickbacks grew out of a 2005 project launched at a time when the US Army and National Guard were struggling to secure new recruits amid heavy casualties in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The National Guard program, which was eventually extended to the active-duty Army, essentially paid troops for referrals of recruits.
These “recruiting assistants,” which included National Guard soldiers and civilians, were allowed to earn between $2,000 to $7,500 for each person they persuaded to enlist.