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A former U.S. Marine Corps Reserve officer who participated in a conspiracy to defraud the Marine Corps out of more than $205,000 was sentenced Tuesday to three months in federal custody, followed by six months in a halfway house.

Lt. Col. Michael K. Strom, 48, pleaded guilty last October to conspiring to commit wire fraud and filing false claims with the United States.

Prosecutors said Strom pretended to rent the home of a fellow officer, former reservist Major Jason H. Wild, in order to claim reimbursements from the Marines when called to active duty at Camp Pendleton. Wild, in turn, pretended to rent Strom’s home.

Both men submitted phony lease agreements and rental receipts to support their false claims. In truth, each man owned his own home next to Camp Pendleton and never paid any of the claimed rent, prosecutors said.

Wild, 45, was convicted at trial and was sentenced last week to nine months in custody and six months in a halfway house.

Both Wild and Strom were ordered to pay $205,628 in forfeiture and restitution.

Wild owned his own home in Oceanside throughout the time he claimed rental benefits from the Marine Corps, prosecutors said. Evidence at Wild’s trial established that he lived in his Oceanside home during the period he falsely claimed to pay $38,442 to rent Strom’s home in Laguna Niguel.

Five months after Wild’s “rental” concluded, Strom was activated at Camp Pendleton and falsely claimed for two years that he rented Wild’s home from Wild’s friend.

Although Strom told the Marine Corps that he paid $98,736 to rent Wild’s home, the evidence showed that Strom lived in his own home in Laguna Niguel throughout the sham “lease” period, prosecutors said.

Financial records, including a bank analysis performed by the Naval Audit Service, established that neither defendant had paid a dollar of the claimed rent.

–City News Service

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