Military veteran jailed for 18 months for stealing $2.1 million worth of military equipment from a base in Texas


A US Army veteran who pleaded guilty to stealing $2.1 million worth of military equipment from an army base in Texas was sentenced last Tuesday to 18 months in prison and more than $1 million in damages condemned the army.

Jessica Elaintrell Smith, 30, was sentenced to 18 months in prison by US District Judge Drew Tipton during a remote hearing, followed by two years of post-release surveillance, the Killeen Daily Herald reported.

Smith will also have to pay the army nearly $1.3 million in restitution for her role in stealing Fort Hood, Tipton ruled.

The vet pleaded guilty in April to stealing dozens of Army thermal imaging scopes, radios and night vision goggles from the Texas base. She and two co-conspirators snatched up the expensive specialty equipment sometime overnight between June 16 and 17 last year, the local outlet reported.

The next day, soldiers at Fort Hood found the locks on 17 shipping containers had been cut, and an inventory count revealed that a total of 137 items worth about $2.1 million were missing from the containers.

“It was a slap in the face,” Assistant US Attorney Joel Stacey Dunn said Tuesday, according to the Herald. “They took what they could get.”

The vet has to pay the army nearly $1.3 million in compensation for her role in the Fort Hood theft.

Smith and her co-conspirators were caught when Army investigators discovered items from the stolen loot for sale on eBay less than two weeks later. The items listed on the resale page had serial numbers that matched the missing devices.

On April 5, Smith pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. A second charge against her was dropped as part of the plea agreement, according to the Herald.

The veteran apologized to the government, her army unit and her family during her sentencing Tuesday, the outlet reported.

“I want a better reality,” Smith said. “I want to do better in life and I will never get into that situation again.”

Her lawyer, a court-appointed public defender, said the mother-of-two was “financially distressed” as she tried to provide for her children.

One of Smith’s co-defendants in the case, Nathan Nichols, also pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced in October. He is expected to share responsibility for paying the $1.3 million restitution to the Army, the judge in the case said.

A third co-defendant and Army veteran, Brandon Dominic Brown, pleaded not guilty in November 2021. He will appear before a grand jury on September 6th.

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