In El Paso yesterday afternoon, a federal jury convicted a former civilian employee in the U.S. Army at Ft. Bliss for a scheme to defraud the government with respect to military aircraft maintenance and parts, announced U.S. Attorney John F. Bash.
Following a four-day trial, jurors convicted James Hilario Balbin of Corpus Christi, TX, of one count of conspiracy to commit fraud involving aircraft parts and one substantive count of fraud involving aircraft parts. Evidence presented during trial revealed that in November and December of 2017, while assigned to conduct maintenance inspections on an Army Blackhawk helicopter, Balbin signed off an official Army maintenance form verifying that all inspections had taken place and work completed when in truth, he signed the form prior to the completion of the repair work and inspections taking place. The jury also found that Balbin conspired with Robert Edgard Blankenbeker, a mechanic and his co-defendant, to conceal his crime.
Balbin remains on bond pending sentencing before U.S. District Judge Philip R. Martinez. Balbin faces up to 30 years in federal prison and restitution to the government. On July 19, 2019, Blankenbeker pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge. Blankenbeker remains on bond pending sentencing. He faces up to 15 years in federal prison. No sentencing dates have been scheduled.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher K. Mangels and Carlos Hermosillo are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.