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Army put hundreds of innocent troops on FBI criminal databases, ruining careers

Army recruits stand in formation before taking their oath of enlistment. (Jose Rodriguez, U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence)
November 04, 2022

A pair of U.S. Army National Guard and Army Reserve recruiting programs that ran from 2005 to 2012 ended in a massive fraud investigation. As the Army investigated the programs from 2012 to 2016, hundreds of participants were wrongly placed on an FBI criminal database, disrupting their lives and hindering their career prospects. Now the Army is trying to fix its mistakes.

On Thursday, the Army announced it has been reviewing the records of the the troops added to the FBI’s Interstate Identification Index (III) databases following the service’s prior investigations of the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP) and Army Reserve Recruiting Assistance Program (AR-RAP). The FBI database is widely used for employers conducting background checks, and is also used for background checks on firearms purchases.

The Army’s review process began this summer. Of the approximately 900 cases already reviewed, more than half have required at least some records corrections, Army officials told Stars & Stripes.

The Army said individuals who were erroneously added to the database will see their names removed and will be notified of any additional steps the individuals can take on their own to repair the harm they’ve endured from the erroneous action they suffered.

“Simply put, proper procedures were not always followed,” Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Director Greg Ford said at a Thursday press briefing. “We acknowledge those mistakes and are taking action to correct these records.”

“After receiving requests to review specific case files, CID identified the need to conduct a complete review of a number of cases which may have been improperly indexed,” Ford added.

The CID, which led the initial investigation of the G-RAP and AR-RAP programs, is now leading this review of the potential mistakes it made from the investigation.

The new review is focusing on about 1,900 cases, but that number could expend as the effort continues. The Army also set up a website where those who believe they may have been improperly punished in G-RAP and AR-RAP investigations can see if their case is being reviewed and to request a review.

The Army’s handling of the initial investigations disrupted many lives. In 2015, then-National Guard recruiting assistant Cpt. Ángel Perales Muñoz, became the target of a federal law enforcement raid in connection with the recruiting fraud investigation. In a 2017 interview with the New York Times, Muñoz revealed how federal officers raided the wrong house twice while searching for him.

“That they couldn’t bother to correctly figure out where I live shows everything about this investigation,” Perales told the New York Times. “They never wanted to understand what was going on; they just wanted to show they were making arrests.”

After learning about the twice-botched home raids, Perales turned himself in. Perales continued for over a year and a half and he was set to go to trial in April of 2017. Perales was ultimately notified in April, the week before his trial was set to begin, that prosecutors had decided to drop his case.

Service members listed on criminal databases could easily see their job opportunities after the military stifled.

Doug O’Connell, an attorney and retired Army officer who represented people swept up in the initial G-RAP investigation told Army Times, “The G-RAP program worked magnificently. It went off the rails when CID agents made flawed assumptions and ruined people’s lives and Army leaders didn’t stand up for junior soldiers.”

O’Connell also noted the Army’s decision to review and correct these records comes after years of harm done to veterans. O’Connell also told Army Times he believes the corrective effort is being made now because the Army may need to restart similar recruiting programs after missing their 2022 recruiting target by a record 25 percent.

“The Army has repeatedly denied these same facts over the last decade,” O’Connell said. “The admissions today are the result of negative media coverage and a desire to resurrect the G-RAP program to compensate for failing recruiting numbers.”