A former Army pilot who stole more than $1 million worth of goods in Iraq and Afghanistan and then shipped some of the loot to Fort Drum has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for the act.
Kurt A. Bennett, 41, Fort Bragg, N.C., also was sentenced Nov. 15 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to three additional years of supervision upon his release from prison after June 4 guilty pleas to conspiracy to steal and convert property belonging to the U.S. government and two counts of theft and conversion of government property.
According to a prepared statement from the U.S. Attorneys Office in Raleigh, N.C., Mr. Bennett was an Apache helicopter pilot assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. From Oct. 18, 2008, to Oct. 18, 2009, he was deployed with his unit to Contingency Operating Base Speicher in Iraq.
According to an indictment handed up in that matter, during that period Mr. Bennett stole government property that had been obtained by his unit, but never placed on the units property book. The items included various tools and a conex shipping container, a large metal cargo container used by the military to ship equipment and supplies. Mr. Bennett loaded the stolen items into the conex and shipped it back to Fort Drum, along with the rest of his units property, when the unit returned to the United States. When Mr. Bennett returned stateside, he drove to Fort Drum, picked up the conex and its contents and took them by his own vehicle to Georgia.
Banumathi Rangarajan, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Mr. Bennett and a co-conspirator, said she was unable to comment on why the items were shipped to Fort Drum because that information is not part of the public record of the case. Similarly, she was unable to say whether Mr. Bennett deployed to Iraq from Fort Drum. She did say that the value of the items in the container totaled about $88,000.
According to court documents, Mr. Bennett and his co-conspirator, Robert A. Walker, a sergeant assigned to the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade out of Fort Bragg, the unit to which Mr. Bennett also was assigned later, continued the stolen goods scheme during a deployment in 2010 and 2011 to Forward Operating Base Spin Boldak in Afghanistan and later at Kandahar Airfield. The items stolen were then shipped back to Fort Bragg. According to Ms. Rangarajan, Mr. Bennett stole goods worth nearly $1.3 million in total during his two tours, including two engines for 20-ton, International MaxxPro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, vehicles. Other stolen items included two all-terrain vehicles, two cargo trailers, TVs, computers and military gear, including ammunition.
According to the indictment, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Walker gave away some of the stolen items to other soldiers and also abandoned some of the property in Afghanistan. Mr. Walker was sentenced Sept. 25 to 18 months in prison.