Two former Orange County sheriff deputies pleaded guilty to defrauding taxpayers by each submitting roughly two dozen fake military orders to get paid military leave, federal prosecutors announced late Tuesday.
“Taylor Morgan, 26, and Tyler Morgan, 26, both of Long Beach, each pleaded guilty in separate hearings to a single-count information charging them with unlawful possession of an authentication feature of the United States, a misdemeanor offense,” reads a Tuesday news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Each of the twin brothers were sentenced to one year of probation by U.S. Magistrate Judge Autumn D. Spaeth.
Apparently, their fraudulent military leave was discovered by one of their colleagues.
“These former deputies took advantage of military service for their own personal gain. Their egregious misconduct was brought forward by a member of our Department, investigated, and they have been terminated,” said OC Sheriff Don Barnes in a Tuesday statement.
Barnes continues: “Their actions do not represent the values of this organization and absolutely do not reflect upon the contributions and sacrifices of the men and women who have courageously served our country as members of our armed forces.”
Taylor Morgan was sentenced to six months of house arrest and was ordered to pay $14,000 in restitution, while Tyler Morgan was sentenced to eight months of house arrest and ordered to pay $32,400 in restitution, prosecutors said.
Tyler Morgan was a correctional service assistant and deputy with the department from August 2015 to January 2021. Taylor Morgan had the same job title from January 2017 to January 2020.
The brothers were in the reserve units in the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.
Both received 30 days of leave per year to be used for vacations, military leave and other personal reasons, authorities say. On top of that, they got another 30 days of leave per year for active duty obligations with their reserve units, including yearly training.
Tyler Morgan submitted 24 fraudulent military orders to OCSD to obtain military leave from the department between 2017 and 2019, according to authorities.
Taylor Morgan submitted 25 of them between 2017 and 2020, prosecutors said.
Both admitted to committing wire fraud using fake military orders to obtain the paid leave by altering orders which appeared to be official notices requiring them to serve active duty at Camp Pendleton, authorities said.
The fake orders appeared to have been authorized by a Marine Corps official and had the Department of Defense’s seal on them, according to federal prosecutors.
The brothers submitted the fake orders to the Sheriff’s Dept.’s Professional Standard Division so they could get leave from the county on the dates listed so their vacation days wouldn’t get docked, prosecutors said. Most of the time the Morgans were at inactive duty training, which the Sheriff’s Dept. didn’t compensate for.
Neither were ordered by the Marine Corps to fulfill active duty obligations with their reserve units, said federal authorities.
In one case, Tyler Morgan submitted a fake order that appeared to require him for active duty in 2019, authorities said.
In reality, prosecutors said, he was on active duty for only part of that time and didn’t tell the department he took a trip to Las Vegas, and spent a day at home playing “Call of Duty.”
Other Orange County’s Sheriff Deputies have also been investigated for similar fraudulent military orders.
Last year, a sheriff deputy submitted military orders that were discovered to be fraudulent by the department, sparking a review of all military orders and placing the deputy on administrative leave.
The Sheriff’s department conducted investigations into six other deputies — including the Morgans — suspected of submitting fraudulent military orders following the review, according to a 2020 press release.
Carrie Braun, a spokesperson for the department, said they have “put a variety of measures in place to know that the military orders are legitimate” but refused to elaborate on what those measures are exactly.
“It’s not vital to the information, the point is we have put measures in place,” she said in a Tuesday phone interview.
It cost county taxpayers a total $14,000 for Taylor Morgan’s fraudulent military leave and $32,400 for Tyler Morgan’s, prosecutors said.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC staff writer and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @photherecord.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.