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One Sentenced in $1M Afghan Smuggling Operation

Former Fort Bragg Staff Sgt. Tonya Long of Fayetteville was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for smuggling more than $1 million out of Afghanistan, U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker's office said.

Long, 30, also known as Tonya Long Keebaugh, will have three years of supervised release following her incarceration and is to pay $1 million in restitution.

Long was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle in Elizabeth City on charges of bulk cash smuggling and aiding and abetting the smuggling.

Court records suggest that someone else is facing charges, but those records are sealed.

According to investigators and the prosecutor, Long was assigned to the 189th Combat Sustainment Battalion attached to the 7th Special Forces Group. During a deployment from January 2008 to April 2009, she was a customs inspector -- she inspected personal property of military service members that was being loaded into containers for shipment back to the United States.

Walker's spokesman said Long and a co-conspirator, whose name is being kept secret, took the money in a double-billing kickback scheme. The co-conspirator collected the money and Long helped smuggle it to the United States in her customs inspector role, the spokesman said.

"Tonya Long betrayed her team and while other soldiers were fighting for our country, she was stealing money intended to support the mission," Walker said in a news release. "Her conduct undermined her fellow soldiers and our nation's reputation. This sentence demonstrates that conduct like this will not be tolerated."

Long and the co-conspirator had an apartment together in the U.S. where they hid the money in a safe, Walker's spokesman said.

The release from Walker's office says Long smuggled the money out of Afghanistan in videocassette recorders. It says she stripped out the VCRs' components, put the money inside, used her authority as a customs inspector to clear them through customs, and had them shipped to the U.S. in military shipping containers.

The smuggling was committed in January and February 2009, a court document says.

Long spent nearly $500,000 on herself and her family, the release says. It says her purchases included a vacation, a car, personal surgeries, and a tractor-trailer.

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Crime Afghanistan