A Columbus man who once worked for Army Emergency Relief faces accusations that he skimmed money off the top of funds granted to needy soldiers and their families.
A federal grand jury indicted Tyrone L. Ellis, 56, last week on 12 charges, including conspiracy, false statement, and conversion by an employee or officer of the United States. According to court records, Ellis and an unnamed co-conspirator solicited thousands of dollars from AER applicants once Ellis had approved grant checks in amounts greater than the person needed.
As an assistant AER officer from October 2005 to August 2006 at Camp Humphreys in South Korea, Ellis approved applications for grants and loans up to $2,500. The indictment alleges that Ellis would have people apply for grants instead of loans, have them lie on their application forms and then issue checks for more than was needed. Some of that cash would then be handed over to Ellis.
Between Oct. 12, 2005 and Aug. 15, 2006, Ellis had applicants give him $7,700. Between Oct. 12, 2005, and July 7, 2006, the co-conspirator had applicants hand over $3,100, the indictment states.
The AER is a private, nonprofit group that provides emergency funds to Army soldiers and their families. It gets its money from contributions during an annual campaign, unsolicited contributions, the repayment of loans and from reserve funds, court records state.
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division began an investigation into the grants in August 2006 at Camp Humphreys. Agents interviewed Ellis and told them he always followed proper procedures in his job, and that he never told an applicant to cash a check and give him some of the money, records state.
Ellis resigned his position in August 2006 and came to Columbus to live, the indictment stated.