Former Bragg soldier sentenced in smuggling scheme

  • Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 2:44 p.m.

RALEIGH (AP) — A former Fort Bragg soldier helped hide $1 million in videocassette recorders to smuggle the cash from Afghanistan, then spent her share on things such as personal surgeries and an 18-wheel truck and trailer, federal authorities say.

Former Staff Sgt. Tonya Long, 30, of Fayetteville was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $1 million in restitution, U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker said. U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle also ordered three years of supervised release after she serves her sentence.

Long, also known as Tonya Long Keebaugh, was convicted of bulk cash smuggling and aiding and abetting the same crime in what authorities described as a double-billing kickback scheme that involved an unnamed co-conspirator.

“Tonya Long betrayed her team and while other soldiers were fighting for our country, she was stealing money intended to support the mission,” Walker said in a news release. “Her conduct undermined her fellow soldiers and our nation’s reputation.”

Court records show Long was in Afghanistan from Jan. 12, 2008, to April 5, 2009, as part of a battalion attached to the 7th Special Forces Group. She inspected troops’ personal property before it was loaded into containers for shipment to the United States.

She and the co-conspirator stripped components from VCRs and hid the cash inside, authorities said. Long cleared the containers with the VCRs in them through customs, shipping them to Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina. The money was hidden and shipped in January and February of 2009, court records state.

The containers stayed at Pope, under armed guard, until Long returned to the U.S., picked up the boxes and took them to an apartment that she and her co-conspirator shared, authorities said Tuesday.

Long spent nearly $500,000 on herself and her family. In addition to surgery and the truck, she paid for a vacation and a car, authorities said.

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