A former U.S. Army specialist from Stockton was sentenced in federal court in San Jose today to two years and six months in prison for accepting a $20,000 bribe to allow a local truck driver to take 12,000 gallons of fuel from a military base in eastern Afghanistan. Anthony Don Tran, 28, was formerly stationed at Forward Operating Base Gardez in Afghanistan and worked at the base’s fuel depot at the time the fuel was stolen in January 2013. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman, who also ordered him to pay restitution of $69,000, the estimated value of the fuel at the time. Freeman additionally ordered Tran to forfeit the equivalent of the $20,000 bribe by giving up a combination of $11,437 in cash and a vehicle he bought with the bribe proceeds. Tran pleaded guilty before Freeman in June to one count of accepting a bribe as a public official.
Tran was originally indicted in federal court in Georgia along with two former Army sergeants who were accused of engaging in an ongoing conspiracy to accept $2,000 per day to allow Afghan truck drivers to transport stolen fuel off the base. Tran’s case was transferred to federal court in San Jose in May. In Georgia, former Sgt. Seneca Darnell Hampton, 31, of Columbus, Ga., and former Sgt. 1st Class James Norris, 33, of Fort Irwin, Calif., each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring in the bribery of a public official and one count of money laundering. Hampton, who received a reduced penalty because he cooperated in the investigation, was sentenced to two years in prison. Norris was sentenced to four years and three months. They were ordered jointly to pay $176,100 in restitution.
During Tran’s guilty plea in June, he also admitted to taking at least $1,000 from Hampton in exchange for agreeing not to report Hampton and Norris, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch. Tran’s defense attorney, Mary Ann Bird, unsuccessfully asked for a more lenient sentence of the six months Tran has already served in custody since being indicted in March. Bird argued in a sentencing brief that Tran was “under a corrupt command structure” of the two sergeants, played a lesser role in the scheme and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his two deployments to Afghanistan in 2010-11 and 2012-13. Prosecutors, who asked for the two-year, six-month sentence, wrote that Tran “abused his position and betrayed the trust ascribed to him by his country and the military, and did so solely for the purpose of personal profit.”