By Breasia Williams

An Army civilian employee pleads not guilty to 10 charges that would result in nearly 150 years in prison after being caught in a seven year long scheme involving money fraud crimes. The woman, Janet Yamanaka Mello, defrauded the military out of $100 million to fund a lavish lifestyle for herself that included luxury cars, homes, expensive jewelry, and several healthy bank accounts.

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Who Is Janet Yamanaka Mello?

Janet Yamanaka Mello, 57, worked at Fort Sam Houston Army base in San Antonio, Texas as a financial program manager. In this role, she was responsible for determining funding amounts for a 4-H program that the military uses to supplement civilian partners.

“What is a 4-H program,” may be a question that some have. A 4-H program is a youth development program. Mello used the Military 4-H youth development program to commit these crimes, and the trust that she had built with her supervisors and co-workers to get the approvals to do so.

What We Know About The Crimes

In 2016, Janet Yamanaka Mello created a nonprofit organization called Child Health and Youth Lifelong Development (CHYLD) whose purpose was said to provide services to adolescents of military members. Because of this purpose, Mello’s program was entitled to funds from the Military 4-H partnership program. As the financial manager, she processed funds through the submission of fraudulent paperwork to this business for years. However, she provided no services to the adolescents of military members.

Instead, Mello created a luxury lifestyle for herself with the funds. She built up a heavy real estate portfolio that consisted of the purchase of 31 properties. One of these properties was an eight bedroom, 12 bathroom mansion located on 58 acres of land, with 55 garage spaces, in Preston, Maryland. This home is valued at $3.1 million.

Another property Mello acquired was a $2.3 million home with four bedrooms and six bathrooms located on 35 acres. This home is located in Castle Rock, Colorado.

In addition to this real estate portfolio, Mello purchased 78 vehicles. Among these vehicles were 16 Harley Davidson motorcycles, four Ducatis, and a 1955 Ferrari Fratelli 165 Racer. It was also discovered that Mello had over $18 million across six accounts.

What Will Happen to Janet Yamanaka Mello?

After her arrest in December 2023, Janet Yamanaka Mello was released without bail. Mello has until January 19th to strike a plea deal. Otherwise, she will face a trial by jury, with jury selection starting on February 12th.

When arrested, 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. If convicted for each charge, Mello will face a maximum of 142 years in prison to pay for her crimes at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Janet Yamanaka Mello will also be forced to return the money and goods that she stole.

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