The Courts Martial is over. Capt Yundt will now serve four years in detention before being discharged from the Air Force. It appears that the US Government dropped the remaining charges so all that the Court had to decide on was the sentencing for the charge of Larceny. In total, Capt Yundt pleaded guilty to stealing over $560,000 worth of primarily electronics (although a floor cleaner was on the list as well). This is a lot less than the total value of all of the material that the OSI retrieved, and I don’t know how they will handle the difference. I suspect that unless it was included in the guilty plea, the material will be returned to Capt Yundt’s wife. I suspect that the legal cost alone will be more than what she could sell any material for. I really don’t know if she even wants any of it, to be reminded that she doesn’t know if it was bought legally or not. What a hard decision to make… do you sell possibly stolen material to pay for your husband’s legal costs, or to help pay all of the other bills that are now yours, and yours alone.
Capt Yundt used two methods to steal. His first, was to abuse the Government Purchase Card (GPC). So, if you asked him to buy you three hard drives for a legitimate program, he’d buy six… and keep three for himself. As an Approving Authority for multiple GPC cards, this scares me, and scares me dearly. I have to trust my card holders. I have to trust that the number of hard drives matches the number that is actually needed. I do ask questions when I see something out of the ordinary, but I don’t know how any reasonable person could catch a GPC card holder when they are adding small numbers to legitimate purchases. It isn’t like you couldn’t use six hard drives… eventually. Maybe he was just planning ahead and being proactive. If it was for something out of the ordinary, or if it was for unique purchases, then its appropriateness is much easier to detect.
He second method puts the GPC scam to shame in scale. The Government uses standardized contracting vehicles to buy IT. For the most part, we use a contract vehicle named NETCENTS. So, the CEIF is buying a lot of equipment for legitimate reasons, an amount that is well above the limits on GPC purchases. Capt Yundt is the program manager, so he is coordinating the entire purchase. He’s the last person to sign off on it before it goes to the Contracting Officer. After a legitimate purchase is created and fully documented, Capt Yundt adds his own wish list to it. He also updates the documentation to make it all look legitimate. Since all of the stuff is like the legitimate stuff, without starting over there is no way to determine if the order has been padded. Well, in Capt Yundt’s case, it was… by over $300,000. It is his most daring and largest theft of Government property. And he pulls it off. Even if there are questions on the order, Capt Yundt is the man with the answers. That’s the Program Manager’s job.
How Capt Yundt did this could be easily repeated across hundreds of offices within the Government. This is especially true for offices that deal with acquisitions, where letting brand new lieutenants be in charge of millions of dollars is routine. To counter the temptation of abusing your position, we go through some pretty serious legal and ethics training. With only a few exceptions, my career has been surrounded by people that I’d judge as having the highest level of integrity possible. I would gladly trust them with millions of dollars, or to babysit my child. We in acquisitions pride ourselves in knowing the law, following it, and keeping our customers out of jail. I chafe when I have to take these on-line training classes to reinforce that I understand the law, and here’s what is allowed, and here is what is not allowed. I don’t like them, but I still dutifully take them.
Capt Yundt isn’t like the rest of us. He has a hard time discriminating right from wrong. When asked if he could have avoided committing the crime, he struggled with an answer. He felt compelled to say “no” and to blame his hording condition, but when asked again, he admitted he could have. At the first inclination that he was enticed in abusing the system, he should have surrendered his GPC card and sought help. It looks bad when you only seek help at the advice of council in preparation for your Courts Martial. While Capt Yundt is only a Captain, he was prior enlisted and was actually in his mid-thirties during his crime spree. This was not a mistake made by a young Captain that simply got in over his head. This was a person that should have known better, should have known that he had a problem, and should have had the integrity to say “no”. You do not put an alcoholic in charge of the liquor cabinet. But that is what happened, and the alcoholic went on a binge drinking, and then chose to drive off a cliff.
Capt Yundt ruined his life. He also ruined his wife’s life. In four years Mr. Yundt will have a chance to turn himself around. In prison, there isn’t much of an opportunity to hoard. I do hope that he will come out of prison a better man that the one that went in. I hope his wife will find the strength to overcome. Whether or not she stays with him is her decision. There are a lot of lesson’s to take from this unfortunate experience, and I do hope that we take away the right ones. I don’t believe making innocent people’s lives hell as they are overwhelmed to buy the littlest items is a lesson worth learning. Perhaps more spot checks and audits, and some more training. Most importantly, we need to learn to look at the situation objectively. I’m sure someone though that the amount of stuff Capt Yundt was buying “seemed excessive”, but didn’t speak up. Those folks need to be encouraged to speak up, even if it is found that everything is legitimate. Sometimes pissing off a good co-worker is the price you pay for doing the right thing. Remember, this isn’t your money, this is the tax payer’s money, and that those of us in positions of trust have a solemn duty to uphold that trust.
For now, I’m just glad that it is over. The rumor mill can once again go quite, and everyone involved can get back to the People’s business.