Border Patrol agent lied about Marine Corps scam

SAN DIEGO — A supervisory Border Patrol agent faces sentencing this summer for lying to a federal grand jury about a Marine Corps benefits fraud scheme.

David Wayne Skinner, who was convicted Thursday in U.S. District Court, faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced Aug. 6, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Jurors heard evidence that Skinner’s accomplices, former U.S. Marine Corps reservist Maj. Jason Wild and former Lt. Col. Michael Strom, defrauded the Marine Corps out of $205,628 between 2006 and 2010.

Skinner assisted with the scheme by signing a false lease agreement used by Strom to make the claims, and by trying to call the military authorities responsible for paying the claim, according to prosecutors.

Witnesses explained how Strom filed two years’ worth of false claims with the Marine Corps, pretending to rent Wild’s home from Skinner.

All of Strom’s claims listed Skinner as the landlord for Wild’s property, even though trial evidence established that Skinner never received any of the $98,716 in rent that Strom claimed to have paid him. Instead, Strom paid Skinner $1,000 during the duration of the scheme, prosecutors said.

Strom pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and make a false claim in 2016; Wild was convicted in November 2016 after a separate trial. Both men were sentenced to prison terms, and the pair has repaid the entire $205,628 back to the Marine Corps, according to prosecutors.

Agents first interviewed Skinner about the fake lease agreement in August 2013. Shown a copy of the agreement, Skinner denied ever seeing it. He again denied authorizing the lease in an interview with agents and a prosecutor in April 2015.

Finally, Skinner testified in the grand jury proceeding in September 2015 and once again denied ever seeing the fake lease agreement before agents first showed it to him in 2013. When shown a copy of the agreement with his signature on it in the grand jury proceeding, Skinner admitted the signature was his but could not explain how it had arrived on a document he had never seen. Skinner also denied ever receiving any money from Strom, even though the two had spoken by phone the day Strom wrote Skinner the check for $1,000.

After a three-day trial, a jury found that Skinner knowingly lied when issuing his denials about the lease agreement to the grand jury. He was acquitted of a separate count charging him with falsely denying receiving money from Strom.