Texas Woman Faces Allegations of Embezzling $100 Million from Army Youth Program for Lavish Real Estate and Luxury Cars

Janet Yamanaka Mello is accused of defrauding the 4-H youth development organization for almost seven years through a grant program.

By allegedly cheating the Army and using the proceeds to purchase opulent residences, expensive jewelry, vintage sports vehicles, and apparel, a Texas woman is accused of being the only person responsible for contributing more than $100 million to the US military budget.

As a civilian financial program manager at Fort Sam Houston, Janet Yamanaka Mello, 57, of San Antonio, is accused of devising a plan to embezzle money from a grant program run by the nonprofit 4-H youth development organization.

She established Child Health and Youth Lifelong Development in December 2016, and a 10-count indictment claims that she “played on the trust she had developed over the years with her supervisors and co-workers” to obtain approvals for payments to the company.

Court documents claim that during the nearly seven years that the scheme went undiscovered, Mello accumulated a real estate portfolio consisting of 31 properties located in Texas, Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico, and Washington.

A $3.1 million residence with eight bedrooms, twelve baths, and fifty-five garage spaces on a vast 58-acre complex in Preston, Maryland, is among the properties included in real estate listings.

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Perched on 35 acres in Castle Rock, Colorado, is another $2.3 million mansion including four bedrooms and six bathrooms.

A fleet of 78 cars, purportedly assembled by Mello, includes 16 Harley-Davidson motorbikes, ranging in age from a 1911 7 Single to a 2021 Pan America, plus five Triumphs, four Ducatis, two BMWs, and a 1955 Ferrari Fratelli 165 Racer and more.

Texas Woman Faces Allegations of Embezzling $100 Million from Army Youth Program for Lavish Real Estate and Luxury Cars (1)
A 1954 Chevrolet Corvette, a 1966 Ford Mustang, five Mercedes-Benzes, two Aston Martins, and a 2018 Maserati GranTurismo sports car are all included in court documents.

Authorities also reported that they had recovered almost $18 million in cash from six bank accounts connected to Mello.

In December, Mello was taken into custody on charges of five mail frauds, four counts of participating in illegal activities, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Should she be found guilty as accused, her maximum sentence would be 142 years behind bars.

According to court documents, Mello was freed without bond and has until January 19 to reach a plea agreement. If not, he will be subject to jury selection and trial on February 12.

In a Wednesday email, defense lawyer Albert Flores told The Messenger, “It is extremely early in the case and I expect the evidence to be extensive. To go over it, we will need some time. It is unlikely that the lawsuit will be settled by those early deadlines.

Flores said she would not comment further.

An inquiry for comments was not immediately answered by the Western District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s office, which is handling the prosecution.

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