Southern Utah News Articles
Former local resident scammed manufacturers under false service record
Michael Vernon Rupert, 42, most recently of Alton, UT, unlawfully obtained merchandise by falsely claiming items were for the U.S. Army. Rupert pleaded guilty in Las Cruces, New Mexico Federal Court on February 21, 2014, to an indictment charging him with three counts of solicitation and use of gifts.
The Kane County Sheriff’s Department was instrumental in the investigation. Rupert, a former U.S. Army sergeant, was arrested in Utah and was transferred to Las Cruces Federal Court on November 12, 2013. He was indicted on January 15, 2014. According to the indictment, Rupert solicited gifts and property from three companies by falsely claiming they were for use by the U.S. Army. At the time of the offenses charged in the indictment, Rupert was residing in Hondo, NM.
The criminal complaint indicated that Homeland Securities Investigations initiated an investigation into Rupert after receiving information that Rupert was soliciting military and law enforcement type clothing and shooting gear from manufacturers by falsely claiming to be a U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major stationed at White Sands Missile Base. During the solicitations, Rupert claimed the goods would be used for testing and evaluation by the U.S. Army and implied that the Army would purchase large quantities of the products, depending on testing and evaluation, and his recommendation.
HSI’s investigation revealed that Rupert solicited merchandise valued at approximately $35,000 from 37 manufacturers and distributors between July 2012-2013. Although Rupert relocated from Hondo, NM to Alton, in October 2012, he unlawfully solicited approximately $32,000 of merchandise before moving to Utah.
But according to the criminal complaint, Rupert continued his unlawful solicitation scheme here. An investigation by the Kane County Sheriff’s Office and Utah state authorities led to the discovery of three more manufacturers and distributors from whom Rupert allegedly unlawfully solicited merchandise. In October 2013, law enforcement searched a trailer Rupert was towing, as he claimed that he was moving to Missouri. Merchandise was discovered in the trailer sent to Rupert by a number of manufacturers who had responded to more of Rupert’s solicitations.
“He was taking advantage of people and stealing from manufacturers,” said Kane County Drug Task Force Detective Dan Watson. He added Rupert had no conscience about misrepresenting his rank and service career to those he met in Utah. Rupert told people that he had been wounded in Afghanistan, when in fact he had gotten out of service before the conflict even began. Watson said good people were taking care of him, as well as giving him financial assistance. Rupert also equipped his own RV with donations, under the guise of being a wounded warrior.
Rupert remains free on conditions of release pending his sentencing hearing, which is yet to be scheduled. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each of the three counts in New Mexico to which he pleaded guilty.
This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of HIS, with assistance from the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, and was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Pleters of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.