This story was originally published in The New York Post and shared via a content agreement with Military Times.
An Army veteran who pleaded guilty to stealing $2.1 million worth of military gear from a Texas army base was sentenced to 18 months in prison last Tuesday and ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution to the Army.
Jessica Elaintrell Smith, 30, was ordered to serve 18 months in prison followed by two years of post-release supervision by U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton during a remote hearing, the Killeen Daily Herald reported.
Smith must also pay nearly $1.3 million to the Army as restitution for her role in the Fort Hood theft, Tipton ruled.
The vet pleaded guilty in April to stealing dozens of Army thermal scopes, radios and night vision goggles from the Texas base. She and two co-conspirators snatched the expensive specialty equipment sometime overnight between June 16 and June 17 of last year, the local outlet reported.
The next day, soldiers at Fort Hood found the locks on 17 shipping containers had been cut and a count of inventory found that a total of 137 items worth about $2.1 million were missing from the containers.
“It was a smash-and-grab,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Stacey Dunn, said on Tuesday, according to the Herald. “They took whatever they could get.”
Smith and her co-conspirators were caught when Army investigators spotted items from the stolen loot for sale on eBay less than two weeks later. The items listed on the resale site had serial numbers that matched the missing equipment.
On April 5, Smith pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. A second count she was charged with was dropped as part of the plea agreement, according to the Herald.
The veteran apologized to the government, her Army unit and her family during her sentencing Tuesday, the outlet reported.
“I want a better reality,” Smith said. “I want to do better in life and I’ll never be in this situation again.”
Her lawyer, a court-appointed public defender, said the mom of two got “financially desperate” in trying to provide for her children.
One of Smith’s co-defendants in the case, Nathan Nichols, also pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced in October. He is expected to share in the responsibility of paying the $1.3 million restitution to the Army, the judge in the case said.
A third co-defendant and fellow Army veteran, Brandon Dominic Brown, pleaded not guilty in November 2021. He will go on trial on Sept. 6 with a grand jury.
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