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A former staff sergeant at Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville admitted Wednesday in federal court that he stole $360,951.94 in government funds to buy items that he then sold at a pawn shop for personal profit.

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U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes accepted a plea to an embezzlement charge from Gabriel McCormick of Cabot, who admitted using a government purchase card to buy items between May 2011 and June 2015 from Alphapointe, an on-base vendor that sells only to authorized cardholders.

McCormick, who was attached to the 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, was authorized to use the card to purchase up to $30,000 a month for items such as aircraft sealant and lubricants, according to his plea agreement. But the items he bought were supposed to be on a list of approved items used only by the squadron.

To buy unapproved items such as flashlights, multitools, high-end batteries and other personal tools, McCormick would send an email to his supervisor listing his planned purchases of approved items, and then would purchase a number of unauthorized items equaling the total on the approved list, the document states.

Two or three times a month, he would sell the unauthorized items he purchased to a local pawn shop, allaying the pawn-shop employees' suspicions by saying he had a relative who worked for the manufacturer, which allowed him to buy the items at a discount, it says.

The plea agreement specifically lists flashlights and notes that McCormick obtained other items by trading flashlights for them.

"A 2015 Air Force audit revealed that between May 2011 and May 2015, the defendant used his [government purchase card] to purchase over 4,988 items," according to the agreement signed by McCormick and his attorney, John Wesley Hall Jr. of Little Rock. It adds, "These items cost the government $360,951.94, and [McCormick] admits to causing this loss to the government by purchasing and then selling these items for his own personal gain."

McCormick also admitted in the plea agreement that he provided false documents to Air Force auditors to try to cover up his actions. The agreement says he used "image editing software to create false Alphapointe receipts that matched the items and amounts that he had been authorized to purchase."

When he is sentenced at a later date, McCormick will be required to make full restitution to the U.S. Air Force. He also faces a prison term of up to 10 years, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to three years' probation.

Federal sentencing guidelines will recommend a penalty range within the statutory framework, based on the individual circumstances and McCormick's history. He also faces a two-point sentencing enhancement for abusing a position of trust.

Metro on 05/10/2017

Print Headline: Air-base embezzlement admitted; Ex-staff sergeant tells court he stole $360,000 over 4 years

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