Janet Yamanaka Mello, a 57-year-old Army civilian employee, stands accused of orchestrating a fraud scheme to embezzle over $100 million from the U.S. Army. The funds, intended for military children’s programs, were diverted over a period of nearly seven years, making this one of the largest known scams by an individual in Army history. Mello, who was indicted on 10 counts including mail fraud, criminal handling of money, and aggravated identity theft, could face up to 142 years in prison if convicted. According to the Justice Department, the scale of her alleged deception involved a substantial accumulation of wealth, including an expansive real-estate portfolio and luxury goods.
Mello, employed as a financial program manager at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, reportedly created a shell nonprofit named Child Health and Youth Lifelong Development (CHYLD) in 2016. Through this entity, she allegedly diverted Army program funds under the pretense of supporting adolescent programs for military families. Prosecutors claim that she leveraged the trust of her colleagues and supervisors, at times forging signatures, to authorize over 40 fraudulent payments. The funds were used to acquire luxury jewelry, 78 vehicles, and 31 properties across multiple states, with many real estate investments valued over $1 million each. Additionally, Mello reportedly held $18 million across six bank accounts. The federal government is now seeking to seize these assets. Despite the allegations, Mello has pleaded not guilty to the charges.