Retired Air Force general sentenced to prison for tax fraud

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Allen Bethel

Sig Christenson
San Antonio Express-News

A former vice commander of an Air Force intelligence organization, a one-star general, was sentenced to a year in federal prison this week for wire fraud and filing a false tax return.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Allen Bethel, 59, of Spring Branch, got 12 months and a day for the scheme, which saw him falsify charitable deductions and business expenses from 2015 to 2019. Prosecutors said Bethel, a 1985 Air Force Intelligence School honor graduate, cost the government $139,687.

He’ll also face three years of supervision after his release from prison and be required to pay $154,827.50 in restitution.

“Today, the sentencing of retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Scott Allen Bethel serves as a reminder that those in positions of authority and trust are expected to uphold higher standards of integrity and accountability,” said Special Agent in Charge Ramsey E. Covington of IRS Criminal Investigation’s Houston field office.

“Bethel’s fraudulent actions, which included fabricating invoices, claiming false deductions, and attempting to enlist others in his criminal activities, not only tarnished his distinguished career but also undermine the very foundations of our tax and government systems,” he said.

Bethel was sentenced Wednesday in San Antonio federal court. He retired in 2012 as vice commander of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. The agency, which has been known by a number of names over the decades, is now called the 16th Air Force (Cyber).

The Justice Department said Bethel began working as a government contractor and advisor to the Air Force after retiring from the branch in 2012. He launched his own business, working with government staffing contracts and providing services to the Air Force.

Bethel submitted false hotel invoices for reimbursement from the federal government when he’d actually stayed with personal acquaintances while on business trips, the Justice Department said.

A large team of federal investigators looked into his case — from the IRS, General Services Administration Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Bethel had a sterling Air Force career. He commanded the 497th Intelligence Group at Langley AFB, Va., from December 2003 to August 2005, and led the 17th Training Wing at Goodfellow AFB, from August 2005 to March 2007. He went on to JBSA-Randolph before becoming director of Strategy, Integration and Doctrine, and deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance at Air Force headquarters in the Pentagon from July 2010 to through the following December.

He was promoted that December to one-star general, serving as vice commander of the Air Force’s ISR agency at Lackland. His duty location was Fort George Meade, Md.

Bethel was 1990 Officer of the Year with the Tactical Air Command and 9th Air Force Intelligence, a 1998 Federal Executive Gold Medal award winner and 2000 Senior Intelligence Officer of the Year for NATO. A veteran of Kosovo, he held the Kuwait Liberation Medal issued by the government there for his role in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and also earned the Iraq Campaign Medal.

He also received the Air Force Combat Action Medal. It is given to airmen who participate in ground or air combat. His was for ground action.

Word that Bethel had been ordered to prison shocked those who had worked with him over the years.

“Many of us have known Scott for decades,” Pastor Tom Cacy, 77, who was Bethel’s instructor in intelligence technical training during the 1980s and worked with him as late as 2014, wrote in a direct Facebook message. “I have always had the deepest respect for him both as a man and as a military/intelligence professional; however, after reading the charges against him for which he was found guilty in a court of civil law with the assistance of OSI, I do have to change my opinion of him from a legal and moral standpoint.

“He severely fell to temptations and it is not my place to judge him for that. That is up to God and a court of law,” added Cacy, a longtime airman and civil service worker who is retired from All Nations Korean Church.


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