A Texas woman faces nearly 150 years in prison after she defrauded the US Army out of $100 million, allegedly using the funds to purchase over 30 homes, luxury cars and jewelry through the seven-year-long scheme.
Janet Yamanaka Mello, 57, who worked as a civilian financial program manager at Fort Sam Houston, hatched a plan in 2016 to create a business titled “Child Health and Youth Lifelong Development” so she would siphon funds she received from the Army to herself.
“Mello allegedly stole more than $100 million in Army funds by regularly submitting fraudulent paperwork that indicated an entity she controlled was entitled to receive funds from the Army,” according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
The alleged fraudster began her scamming in 2016 when she created the bogus business called “Child Health and Youth Lifelong Development (CHYLD),” according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Mello claimed her business provided services to military members and their families through the 4-H program but instead just funded a lavish lifestyle for herself.
The 4-H Military program “focuses on positive youth development through providing opportunities for youth to engage in intentional learning experiences.”
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) flagged Mello’s suspicious business when she included it on her personal tax returns in 2017, reporting a $483 profit on a $2,152 revenue, the outlet added.
Since 2017, She hasn’t filed tax returns for CHYLD.
Mello, who earned $129,996 in 2022, purchased 31 different real estate properties in Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington.
One property was valued to be worth $3.1 million, an eight-bed 12-bath mansion in Preston, Maryland with 55 garage spaces on 58 acres, according to the outlet.
Another property she added to her portfolio, was a $2.3 million home in Castle Rock, Colorado with four bedrooms, and six bathrooms on 35 acres.
Along with the massive amount of real estate she was buying, Mello also splurged and purchased 78 vehicles.
She built a fleet of motorbikes which included 16 Harley-Davidson motorcycles, five Triumphs, four Ducatis, two BMWs and a 1955 Ferrari Fratelli 165 Racer.
She allegedly also purchased a 2018 Maserati GranTurismo, a 1954 Chevrolet Corvette, a 1966 Ford Mustang, five Mercedes-Benzes and two Aston Martins, according to the Messenger.
Authorities also seized over $18 million in cash from six different accounts connected to Mello.
Mello was arrested in December and charged with five counts of mail fraud, four counts of engaging in a monetary transaction over $10,000 using criminally derived proceeds, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
“The indictment also includes a notice of forfeiture for the proceeds and property that Mello obtained as a result of the criminal conduct alleged,” the Department of Justice said.
She was released without bail and the US District Court for the Western District of Texas awaits a Jan. 19 deadline on whether Mello strikes a plea deal or faces a jury selection and trial on Feb. 12.
If found guilty, Mello faces a maximum prison sentence of 142 years.