NORFOLK -- When federal investigators first started looking into Clayton Pressley III, they thought the Chesapeake sailor was only guilty of stealing the identities of his subordinates.
But while that case worked its way through the courts in late 2016, they got a tip: The Bronze Star recipient was also ripping off the Navy through an elaborate procurement fraud scheme.
Pressley was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison in connection with the $2.3 million fraud. That is on top of four years and two months he received in the identity theft case, in which he fraudulently obtained $24,000 in loans.
The fraud charges stem from Pressley's efforts in 2014 to manipulate the Navy's procurement process for personal profit. According to court documents, Pressley, then a senior chief petty officer, and unnamed co-conspirators were selling Navy "inert training aids," or fake bombs, that were never shipped but marked as delivered.
According to court documents, an unnamed Navy officer who had purchasing authority ordered the aids from two vendors, identified as Firm D and Firm V.
Friendly sales representatives from those firms funneled orders to Firm G, a Tucson, Ariz.-based business that served as a front for Pressley, the mother of one of his children and other co-conspirators. No goods were ever delivered, documents said.
It is unclear whether the sales representatives knew the scope of the fraud.
Pressley, who used an alias to serve as Firm G's chief operating officer, netted more than $644,000 from the conspiracy, court documents said.
He used the money to buy airline tickets, home goods, hotel rooms and a car, among other things.
"The steps taken by Mr. Pressley and others to perpetrate their scheme demonstrated remarkable cunning and deceitfulness," Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David Layne said in court documents, asking for a sentence of at least three years and 10 months.
Defense attorney Bruce Sams asked the court for a sentence of no more than two years, saying his client was struggling with unspecified mental health issues at the time of his crimes. He noted Pressley was forced to forfeit his military retirement benefits.
Pressley was forced out of the Navy last year after almost 20 years.
"Mr. Pressley does not really know what reasons led him to engage in his criminal conduct but has expressed his remorsefulness and repentance for having done so," Sams said in court documents.
Pressley, who was ordered to pay full restitution, received his Bronze Star in January 2007. According to a copy of the citation, it was "for exceptionally meritorious service during Operation Iraqi Freedom."
Court documents said he served as a command action casualty officer, meaning he contacted military members' families in the event of their deaths.
This article is written by Scott Daugherty from The Virginian-Pilot and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.