Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Idiot of the Week (And Maybe, the Year)

It shows up regularly in your e-mail inbox; it's "from the desk" of someone you've never heard of, and begins with a flowery salutation. Assuming that you bother to open the e-mail, you quickly learn that Mr. Abu, Ms. Cameroon or (pick your own name) has a problem. There's a large sum of money stuck in an African bank, and if you can wire them some money to grease the local skids, Mr. Abu or Ms. Cameroon will get the loot and split it with you.

Anyone with an I.Q. above room temperature recognizes the message as the latest version of the Nigerian bank scam, and quickly deletes it. The con has been around for years, and thanks to the internet and spam e-mail, it will probably last forever. Apparently, there are still a few suckers out there who fall for it, sending thousands of dollars to criminals in pursuit of that elusive African fortune.

Did you ever wonder what kind of idiot actually falls for the scam? Well, until recently, one of them wore the uniform of a U.S. Navy officer.

Lieutenant Milton Guy was a supply officer, part of the crew of the USS McClusky, a frigate based in San Diego. Guy is now serving 28 months in the brig after pleading guilty to stealing up to $140,000 from the ship's safe. According to Navy Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, Lieutenant Guy sent most of the money to a man named Barnabus, who told the officer that he was a Nigerian government representative handling disbursement of an $2.6 million estate belonging to a Mark Guy.

Court documents indicate that Guy stole "small amounts" of money from the frigate's safe between October 2004 and July 2005. Apparently, those small amounts added up rather quickly, because a 2006 Navy audit showed between $120,000 and $140,000 was missing from the ship's funds. Along with his payments to Barnabus, Guy also used the stolen funds to buy a laptop computer, put a down payment on a car, and a deposit on an apartment.

In addition to his brig time, the former naval officer also received a $14,000 fine. At his court-martial last month, Guy pleaded guilty last month to charges of wrongful appropriation, dereliction of duty and making a false statement, according to the Union-Tribune. Press accounts also indicate that he "could" be dismissed from service.

Let's hope that the local reporters got that wrong. Given the severity of Guy's crime, dismissal from service should be automatic, regardless of his previous service history. But then again, military justice often takes a strange turn. We recently reported on the case of an Air Force officer, Major Steven Bishop, who filed dozens of false travel vouchers and bilked the government for $21,000.

Major Bishop was also found guilty at court-martial and sentenced to 27 months in prison. But if he pays the imposed fine--you guessed it, $21,000--he won't be dismissed from service. That would allow him to emerge from prison with a federal conviction on his record, but his military pension intact.

We certainly disagree with that provision of Bishop's sentence, and for sheer stupidity, we don't think that Guy deserves the same opportunity. The supply corps has long been maligned (rather unfairly) for having a number of dim bulbs in its ranks, and Guy's little escapade won't diminish that reputation.

By actually falling for the Nigerian bank scam--and paying for his mistake with government funds--former Navy Lieutenant Milton Guy certainly deserves "Idiot of the Week" honors, and he's got a leg up for the annual prize as well.

Now, we're just waiting for someone to tell us that he's a proud grad of that Boat School in Annapolis.

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