US Army Contractor Allegedly Stole $100 Million from Military Families

By Mary Nady

Janet Yamanaka Mello, 57, a U.S. Army civilian contractor, is accused of embezzling more than $100 million intended for children of military families. She reportedly used the money to buy cars and real estate.

Melo pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 10 charges, including mail fraud, criminal misappropriation of money and aggravated identity theft. If convicted, she could face up to 142 years in prison.

Merlo’s seven-year fraud went undetected at Fort Sam Houston, authorities said. Her responsibilities include providing funding for grant programs that support civil partners.

She reportedly created a fictitious nonprofit called Child Health and Youth Lifelong Development (CHYLD) in 2016 and transferred funds to the entity more than 40 times over six years. However, CHYLD allegedly provided no services and Melo pocketed more than $100 million.

According to media reports, Melo leveraged relationships with co-workers and supervisors in her scheme, even forging supervisors’ signatures to obtain approval for transactions. She used the stolen funds to purchase luxury jewelry, 78 vehicles, including classic cars and motorcycles, and 31 properties in various states, according to the indictment.
An extraordinary estate in Preston, Maryland, features an infinity pool, three 55-car garages and 16 bathrooms. In August, it sold for $3.1 million.

Most of her properties are located in Texas, New Mexico and Washington state and are worth more than $1 million. Her vehicle collection includes a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS and a 1954 Chevrolet Corvette.

The government is currently in the process of seizing the property and vehicles. Melo also had more than $18 million in six bank accounts. Unless a deal is reached with prosecutors, she must undergo jury trial and selection by Jan. 19, according to court documents.

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