By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
A Marine Corps recruiter was found guilty Wednesday of providing counterfeit documents to illegal aliens in order for them to enlist fraudulently in the service. The verdict was rendered in a court-martial at the Marine Corps base in Parris Island, South Carolina.
A five-member panel, akin to the jury at a civilian trial, returned its verdict after five hours of deliberations. Later that evening, the panel sentenced Gunnery Sergeant Hubert A. Lucas, 35, to a year in prison and a bad conduct discharge, and reduced his rank by six levels to that of private, the lowest rank for enlisted personnel.
According to his lawyer, Captain John Schwab, Lucas had been facing up to 34 years in prison.
The panel convicted Lucas on six of the eight charges prosecutors had brought against him. Lucas was found not guilty of having had an illicit sexual relationship with a female applicant and not guilty of attempting to impede the investigation into his activities and influence the applicant's testimony.
However, the panel found Lucas guilty of fraudulent enlistment, fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, dereliction of duty, and improper fraternization with the applicant.
These activities allegedly occurred between March 2002 and July 2004, according to the charge sheet in Lucas's case.
At trial, Lucas denied the charges against him and, according to the Marine Corps Times, Schwab argued that although the recruits in question did enlist with counterfeit documents, there was no evidence to indicate that they had obtained the documents from Lucas. Yet Captain Jeffrey King, who prosecuted the case, convinced panel members that prosecution witnesses had no reason to lie.
In August of last year, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service began an inquiry into the activities of Lucas and three other individuals at a recruiting sub-station in Perrine, Florida. According to an NCIS report, part of which was obtained by the Voice, a review of documents on file at the sub-station found 23 recruits who appeared to have fraudulently entered the Marine Corps. Suspect alien registration as well as Social Security numbers for 23 applicants were queried through federal databases and all were either completely fraudulent or assigned to a different person, according to the report. Investigators also identified three more alien recruits suspected of fraudulently enlisting.
An NCIS spokesman said that the investigation was still underway and that investigators had seen no motive other than greed. (Lucas was accused of charging one applicant $250 for her fake documents).
Of the U.S. military's four active-duty branches, only the army failed to meet its recruiting goals for the 2005 fiscal year. The Marine Corps fulfilled its goal by 102 percent; at the sub-station were Lucas worked, productivity was about average both before and after his time there, according to a Marines Corps spokesman.
There are about 37,500 foreign nationals serving in the U.S. armed forces, but it's impossible to know how many service members are not lawful permanent residents. In order to enlist, non-U.S. residents must present a green card. Yet it was not until last year that the military began to verify applicants' alien registration numbers with the Department of Homeland Security.
In the last two years there have been several published cases of illegal aliens having fought or died in combat or faced discharge. Immigration attorneys contacted by the Voice admitted to representing other such clients and indicated the phenomenon may be more widespread than officially acknowledged.
Federal law authorizes the military to enlist illegal aliens during wartime, and an army spokeswoman confirmed to the Voice that commanding officers do in fact have the discretion to not to bring proceedings against soldiers discovered to be illegal aliens. However, current military policy is to enlist only citizens and permanent residents.