GREENVILLE, Maine — A soldier who placed his life on the line to defend America never imagined the very people he was defending would take advantage of him.
Shawn Burke, 23, who is stationed in Texas, was robbed earlier this year of his $14,000 life savings when his checkbook was stolen and his account at a local credit union was emptied, according to Greenville Police Chief Scott MacMaster.
Burke came to Maine on leave Monday to get a progress report on his case.
He said he made the visit out of frustration. With another deployment to Iraq scheduled in a couple of months, Burke had hoped more progress would have been made. It will be on his mind when he is in Iraq, he said.
Burke did praise the Greenville Police Department, which is handling his case. “They’ve been really good and helping out the whole way; they are keeping me informed,” he said. “I understand it takes time with the legal system,” but he added that doesn’t help his finances.
“I’m living paycheck to paycheck. It’s an ongoing battle between that and trying to make it through the day,” Burke said.
MacMaster said the case is frustrating to his department as well. “You can empathize with the victim and you can hear his frustrations. He’s doing a service for all of us and these individuals tapped into his bank account and drained him.”
Two men have pleaded guilty in connection with the case. Duane Hyde, 37, of Dover-Foxcroft and Robert Brammer, 29, of Guilford pleaded guilty this fall to forgery and their sentencing has been continued to February. Police say a third person who allegedly cashed some of the checks has eluded them.
A warrant of arrest was issued Oct. 13 for Ashley Gamblin, 19, whose last known address was Dover-Foxcroft. MacMaster is asking for the public’s help in finding Gamblin so the case can be resolved. Anyone with information should call the Greenville Police Department at 695-3835 or their local police department.
“Just to close this thing out and let him move on would be great,” MacMaster said of Burke.
Burke said the $14,000 represented his life savings, money he earned while in the Army. He planned to use some of the funds for online college courses to get a degree.
It was while he was registering for such a course that he discovered the theft. Burke told police earlier this year he had written a check for a course but the check failed to clear. In mid-April he called the Greenville branch of his credit union to inquire about the problem. He then learned his account had been drained since he had arrived back in the country after his first deployment in Iraq.
The checks cashed reportedly were taken from a box of checks the credit union had mailed, at Burke’s request, to his brother’s home in Dover-Foxcroft. The checks were written in amounts from $630 to $6,500, and the first were cashed in February, several days after Burke had returned to the United States, according to MacMaster.
MacMaster said the checks were stolen by acquaintances of Burke’s brother and cashed at credit union branches in Dover-Foxcroft, Guilford, Dexter and Greenville. Identification or licenses were provided by the individuals where the checked were cashed, he said.
Because Burke failed to check his statement and did not notify the credit union within 20 days upon its receipt to report the missing funds, a credit union official said he bears some fault. The official said the credit union would refund only $3,995 to Burke.
The Judge Advocate General’s Corps, or JAG, is working to help Burke recover the funds, Burke said. “JAG is trying to find out what is going on with the credit union to see how that is playing out,” he said Monday. JAG believes the credit union should come up with a substantial amount because it was notified immediately and had refunded one check, he said.
Burke said a couple of people who read his plight in the Bangor Daily News sent him a couple hundred dollars saying they were appalled that he was robbed. He is thankful for those gifts.
MacMaster said he has asked the District Attorney’s Office to seek restitution. If restitution is imposed during sentencing, MacMaster said it likely would take several years before the full amount is repaid to Burke.
“I’ve had cases that have involved everything from the elderly being financially exploited to, you know, young kids that have been victims of crimes, but this one stands out,” MacMaster said.