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6th LRS Airman court martialed for theft from boosters

by Capt. Rebecca Ford
6th Air Mobility Wing Judge Advocate

Senior Airman Tommy Simpson, the treasurer of the Fuels Flight Booster Club, stole $2400 from his own Booster Club. The money had been earned by the labor of his fellow airmen who worked a concessionaire booth at the Buccaneers football games.

In his own words, Airman Simpson told the military judge, "…It started with that first check, writing it and cashing it. Then I had such a financial burden at the time that that was my way out…Your Honor."

That's right; those words were delivered to a military judge. Airman Simpson got caught and had to tell his story in open court. That same judge sentenced him to nine months confinement (reduced to six months per pretrial agreement), a bad conduct discharge, reduction to E-1 and two-thirds forfeiture of pay per month at the rank of E-1 for nine months.

For the past few years, the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Fuels Flight Booster Club worked a booth at Raymond James Stadium during the Buccaneers home games. Rising early on their days off, up to 12 members would meet at 10:30 a.m. for one p.m. games. They counted the inventory: beer, peanuts, hotdogs, chips and sodas.

Next, instead of proceeding into the interior of Raymond James Stadium to view the game, they worked the booth located within the perimeter of the stadium. They turned over approximately $15,000 to $16,000 worth of business by selling the inventory to hungry and thirsty Bucs fans. When the crowd roared, they were only able to turn their heads to view a TV screen and see a replay. After the game was over, the Booster Club had to tally the funds and conduct an inventory before they could finally rest after eight hours of hard work. After each game, the flight left with about $450 in profits.

Why did they do this? For love of the "Fuels family" and love of football. The money went to honor 6th LRS Fuels Flight members. The money was available to purchase retirement gifts, to welcome new babies into the world and to buy mementos for life's many occasions. The money earned during football season was supposed to float the Booster account until the next football season. This flight had heart.

So how is it that one member of the family bled $2,400 down to a measly $1.38 in just six months? How could the treasurer betray his fellow flight members who had worked so hard to earn that money? In fact, Airman Simpson forged the names of fellow booster officers on 19 checks and obtained the club debit card for his own personal use. He took the money from the flight and from MacDill Federal Credit Union.

This was not an ordinary Booster Club wherein folks just donated money. No, he betrayed the work of the "Fuels family." Each flight member had worked two to three games for the greater good of the flight. Airman Simpson also forged the names of the other officers so he could cash club checks for his personal needs, "gas, groceries and day-to-day expenses."

As anyone can imagine, most of the flight was incredibly disappointed and hurt. Not only did some of the flight members feel betrayed, but the Booster Club had to conduct emergency operations at the Ford Amphitheater to raise money to fund three upcoming retirements. Yet, other members of the flight missed the reason why Airman Simpson's conduct was such a big deal.

What is the lesson? First, love your friends. Do not place self-interests over those of fellow flight members. Cherish the people in the Air Force and cherish the resources. Second, ask for help. This Airman had an admitted "financial burden." He should have told his supervisor and availed himself of the resources at the Family Support Center.

The lesson is not to dig the hole deeper, but to climb out of it. He repaid most of the money, but will spend time in jail away from his family and lose his rank, part of his pay, and his Air Force career. Do not make the same mistake.

So during this next Buccaneers football season, celebrate "football, beer and friends" not "football, beer and betrayal" or you too might find yourself before a military judge.

The 6th Air Mobility Wing Judge Advocate would like to offer special thanks to the members of the 6th LRS Fuels Flight, MacDill Federal Credit Union, particularly Ms. Nancy Kehler and the 6th Security Forces Squadron for their assistance in prosecuting this case.

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