LAS VEGAS (AP) - A 25-year-old ex-Marine was sentenced Monday to
18 months in federal prison for stealing identities and looting the
bank accounts of Marines stationed in Iraq.
Edgar Alejandro Hermosillo, of El Paso, apologized before he was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pro in Las Vegas.
"There's certain things that after we do them ... we say, 'I wish I wouldn't have done that,"' said Hermosillo, who described his love for the Marine Corps and the U.S.
Hermosillo's lawyer blamed the crimes on the strain of combat and the shock of returning home to money troubles after two tours of duty in Iraq.
Richard Frankoff, a deputy federal public defender, told Pro that Hermosillo enlisted before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and was shipped out to Iraq even before completing basic training.
Hermosillo received an honorable discharge as a lance corporal in May 2005, but suffered "stress, strain and depression" after witnessing death and destruction in combat, his lawyer said.
Frankoff told the judge that Hermosillo also hoped to have been promoted before his discharge, and found it difficult to support his wife and young daughter.
A federal grand jury in Las Vegas indicted Hermosillo on Jan. 9, accusing him of using government computers at Camp Pendleton,
Calif., to obtain personal information to access Pacific Marine Credit Union accounts of at least 15 enlisted Marines.
He pleaded guilty April 2 to federal conspiracy, wire fraud and identity theft charges, admitting he funneled money to his own bank account, those of his family members, and to Western Union branches in Nevada, Texas and New Mexico.
The indictment also referred to an unindicted co-conspirator, who allegedly joined Hermosillo in using false U.S. government identification cards at Western Union outlets to collect about $39,000 from 26 bank accounts. Prosecutor Ray Gattinella said the co-conspirator remained unidentified.
Hermosillo stood at attention in street clothes in court as the judge spoke of his own duty to Marines in combat whose accounts were looted, including one who had to borrow money to buy clothes after his mother had a stroke and another who couldn't access his bank account while he was in Iraq.
"It really means something to those who were victimized in this case to see you punished," Pro said, and added it was important that Hermosillo serve prison time for "doing something that would distract comrades in the military who are in harm's way."
Pro sentenced Hermosillo to the maximum recommended by federal Parole and Probation officials. Hermosillo could have faced up to 45 years in federal prison and $750,000 in fines according to the charges against him.
Hermosillo also was sentenced to five years of supervised probation after prison, ordered to pay just over $39,000 in restitution to his victims, and ordered to undergo mental health counseling.
The judge allowed Hermosillo to remain free before reporting to federal prison on Aug. 28. Pro said he would recommend Hermosillo be allowed to serve his sentence close to his Texas home.
Hermosillo's parents, wife and brother sat in the courtroom during sentencing, but declined comment afterward.
His father, Ricardo Arenivar of El Paso, told the judge that after Hermosillo returned home from his first tour in Iraq he was aggressive, angry, quick to challenge others and quick to fight.
"I feared for him because he would vent his anger and frustration at other people," Arenivar said. He said Hermosillo returned home from a second tour "more rigid, more angry" and refused help.
"We felt that something was going to happen with him getting into trouble," Arenivar said.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)