‘Gucci Goddess’ accused of stealing $100M from US Army agrees to plead guilty

The 57-year-old civil servant who was accused of conning the U.S. Army out of $100 million has agreed to plead guilty to fraud.

Dubbed the “Gucci Goddess” on social media, Janet Yamanaka Mello was flagged by the IRS after she managed to buy 31 luxury homes, a fleet of big-ticket cars and motorcycles, plenty of designer clothes and blingy jewels, and trips around the world on a government salary of just $122,996 a year.

It was hailed as one of the worst cases of theft in the Army’s history.

In December, Mello was charged with “five counts of mail fraud, four counts of engaging in a monetary transaction over $10,000 using criminally derived proceeds, and one count of aggravated identity theft,” according to a release from the Department of Justice at the time.

The con artist was in the headlines again in January when it was revealed that she would get to retire with full benefits, thanks to a federal law and government red tape.

“The command has no authority to impact Ms. Mello’s retirement,” an Army spokeswoman told the San Antonio Express-News at the time. “In accordance with 5 U.S. Code Section 8312, an individual may be denied an annuity or retired pay on the basis of the service of the individual, if the individual is convicted of treason, rebellion or insurrection, or other similar offenses. There is no similar statutory authority for denying retired pay based on a conviction of other offenses.”

Late on Wednesday, plea documents were filed in Mello’s case, the San Antonio Express-News now reports.

“A criminal information document filed with Mello’s plea deal charges her with five counts of mail fraud and five counts of filing a false tax return. The maximum sentence for each mail fraud count is 20 years in prison; it’s five years on tax fraud counts,” according to the outlet. “However, Mello could receive less than the maximum penalties.”

As BizPac reported, Mello was employed as a civilian financial program manager at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. There, she created a company called “‘Child Health and Youth Lifelong Development” [CHYLD] and used it to funnel Army funds into her bank account.

“Mello claimed that CHYLD provided services to military members and their families, when, in reality, CHYLD did not provide any services,” the DOJ stated in December. “The indictment alleges that Mello instead used the funds to buy millions of dollars in jewelry, clothing, vehicles, and real estate. Additionally, Mello is alleged to have falsified the digital signature of one of her supervisors on multiple occasions.”

Citing the plea documents, the Express-News reports that the government “is going after more property than previously reported to try to recoup some of the stolen money.”

“The government also is going after more than $18 million it found in six bank accounts linked to Mello or CHYLD. One of those bank accounts is linked to a cattle company she formed with her husband, records show,” according to the outlet. “Authorities also are trying to keep 35 vehicles by forfeiture, some of them vintage and collector cars, and 42 motorcycles, many of them collector’s items.”

In the information document, Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Simmons pointed to mistakes made by the U.S. Army.

“Despite the massive amount of money that went to CHYLD,” Simmons wrote, “defendant’s supervisors trusted defendant and did no independent verification that CHYLD actually provided services consistent with the purpose of the program, did no review of defendant’s relationship to CHYLD, and took no additional steps to confirm the funds defendant authorized and requested were lawfully used consistent with the purpose of the program.”

“Military records reviewed by the Express-News show no one else has been held accountable,” the outlet reports. “The records show her supervisors still have their jobs, and several sources told the newspaper that no one in the military’s chain of command has been forced out over the scandal.”

Mello’s federal court plea hearing in San Antonio has yet to be scheduled.

Melissa Fine


We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, profanity, vulgarity, doxing, or discourteous behavior. If a comment is spam, instead of replying to it please click the ∨ icon below and to the right of that comment. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain fruitful conversation.

Latest Articles