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Former BLM Employee Admits Stealing Government Money

A former Bureau of Land Management employee admitted on Wednesday, Feb. 22, to stealing $10,700 in government funds, forging another employee’s signature, to use towards personal expenses.

Adrian Anthony Aragon, 52, of Butte, pleaded guilty to theft of government property and aggravated identity theft, according to Montana’s U.S. Attorney’s Office. Aragon worked as an administrative assistant for the BLM, according to court documents, and was given a government travel card and a government purchase card to fulfill his work requirements.

The government said Wednesday an anonymous BLM employee, Jane Doe, told officials in 2022 four checks totaling $10,700 were written on a government bank account in her name without her knowledge or authorization. The checks were written to “cash” and were deposited into Wells Fargo accounts in Aragon’s name, where he used the funds for personal expenses, including cash withdrawals, utility and cell phone bills, restaurants, grocery stores and Amazon purchases.

Jane Doe told law enforcement that Aragon had access to her checks during his employment and that Aragon made schedule changes resulting in him being the first or last person in the office.

The indictment in the case said Aragon used the government cards to pay for $2,500 in pottery, a $622 personal flight to New Mexico and cash withdrawals. The government alleged he attempted additional cash withdrawals and also tried to rent a car using the government card while on personal vacation. Aragon tried to cover his tracks by doctoring the statement on the card for the pottery and the flight, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The government theft charge could land Aragon in prison for a maximum of 10 years, with a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. The identity theft could mean a mandatory minimum of two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, a $250,000 fine and one year of supervised release.

Aragon was detained pending further proceedings, with his sentencing scheduled for June 26.

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