Air Force Maj. Brandon Bailey, 332nd Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron medical crew director, awaits the arrival of patients from a forward operating base in Mosul, Iraq, on Sept. 23, 2008. (Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon/Air Force)
Hayley Fowler, The Charlotte Observer
Brandon Bailey was kicked out of the U.S. Air Force in 2010 after he was convicted by court martial on drug and theft charges in what prosecutors described as the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge.
But that didn’t stop him from getting a paycheck.
Due to an “administrative error” in payroll, the government said, Bailey kept getting paid by the Air Force for six years after his dismissal. During that time, he is accused of pocketing more than $800,000 and lying about his military service to collect additional money from other federal programs.
Now the 43-year-old is heading to prison.
On Wednesday, April 6, a judge in the Southern District of Alabama sentenced Bailey to five years and three months behind bars coupled with three years of supervised release. Bailey was also ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution as well as forfeit his four-bedroom house in Maine and 78 acres of property in Butler, Alabama.
A defense attorney representing him did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Friday, April 8.
Bailey had reached the rank of major in the Air Force when he went before a court martial in July 2010 and was convicted on charges of wrongful use and possession of a controlled substance as well as theft, according to his indictment. His sentence included dismissal from the military.
Prosecutors said Bailey was put on what’s known as “appellate review leave” in October 2010, at which point he was no longer entitled to receive pay from the Air Force.
But the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which oversees payroll for the U.S. Department of Defense, wasn’t told about Bailey’s dismissal, his indictment states. Prosecutors said Bailey was subsequently left on the payroll from October 2010 until March 2017, netting him $818,918.
According to the government, Bailey never told the Air Force and “took advantage of the payroll mistake.” In addition to cashing his paychecks, prosecutors said, Bailey periodically received health care from military facilities and continued to access his Air Force personnel page in search of W-2s and monthly payroll statements.
“At various times, he falsely portrayed himself publicly as an active duty Air Force member and relied on Air Force documents to open bank accounts and obtain loans, credit cards and other items of value that he was not lawfully entitled to receive,” prosecutors said in the indictment.
The government said Bailey also lied in his application for Social Security Disability Insurance by claiming in-part that he was “medically disqualified for military service.”
While collecting disability insurance, Bailey was reportedly running a farm in Alabama and working as a “veteran’s consultant” and part-time faculty member at a private college. He also claimed to be an Air Force nurse, a combat rescue officer, a veteran of a combat tour in Afghanistan and a recipient of a Purple Heart, according to his indictment.
Then, in February 2019, prosecutors said Bailey filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in which he failed to disclose more than $30,000 in rental income, $33,000 in teaching and consulting income and $3,600 in income from Disabled American Veterans.
It wasn’t clear how Bailey’s scheme unraveled, but a grand jury indicted him three days after Christmas in 2020 on 13 counts of stealing government property, making false statements, concealing assets and fraudulently transferring property.
Bailey pleaded guilty to one count of stealing government property and one count of concealing assets in June, court filings show.
Prosecutors said Bailey was released following his initial arrest, but a judge revoked his bond in January after he was caught with guns at his home in Maine in violation of the terms of his release.
The government had pushed for a sentence at the low end of the recommended guidelines, calling Bailey a “serial fraudster” and saying it wouldn’t recommend a sentence reduction for him accepting responsibility because of the alleged pre-trial violations.
“Bailey’s alleged misconduct while awaiting sentencing was brazen, indicative of a lack of acceptance of responsibility, and worthy of punishment,” prosecutors said in sentencing documents.
But Bailey’s defense attorney rebuffed the assertion that he wasn’t taking responsibility, citing a conversation he had with his probation officer.
“I did it,” Bailey reportedly said. “I feel horrible. I hate this is happening. I’ll never do it again. That’s for sure.”
The U.S. Probation Office calculated that Bailey should be sentenced to between 63 and 78 months in prison. The judge ultimately sentenced him at the bottom end with 63 months as to the theft of government funds charge and 60 months as to the concealing assets charge.
The sentences will be served at the same time.