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28 Marine reservists charged in alleged travel scam

The Internal Revenue Service has filed charges against 28 Marine reservists in what has been described as a travel voucher scheme in which the government was fraudulently billed for hotel stays and other expenses.

The members of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve were assigned to the Third Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company at Terminal Island, according to Special Agent Linda Lowery, an IRS spokeswoman.

A 50-count indictment filed in September alleges that between August 2007 and September 2009, seven Marine reservists conspired to defraud the Department of Defense by receiving payments for fraudulent travel and hotel expenses.

The indicted reservists were identified as: Cpl. Robert Jackson, 28, of Los Angeles; Lance Cpl. Francisco Salas, 27, of Sylmar; Cpl. Gabriel Rangel, 26, of Hermosa Beach; Cpl. Marcos Solis, 33, of Victorville; Lance Cpl. Octavio Renteria, 27, of Downey and Sgt. Byron Orantes, 36. They were all arrested Oct. 16 and have been released on bond.

A seventh person remains at large. Authorities have identified him as Bladimir Flores of Orange County, a sergeant who was in charge of submitting travel expense reimbursement claims.

Additionally, 21 other reservists are charged with filing false tax returns.

The indictment alleges that Flores prepared and submitted fraudulent travel vouchers claiming reimbursement for hotel and other travel expenses that reservists supposedly incurred while on duty.

Authorities said, however, that many of the expenses were never incurred and that the reservists lived close enough to Terminal Island to be ineligible for lodging reimbursements.

The indictment alleges that Flores would attach fake hotel receipts and use fake home addresses to make it appear that the claimants lived beyond the reasonable commuting distance from the facility.

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