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Man at Florida base in hot water over weapons, housing

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The alleged violations occurred at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida
  • The man is accused of using "subterfuge" to get housing
  • He's also accused of not reporting his possession of weapons

(CNN) -- A man who worked as a civilian military contractor at an air force base in Florida faces federal charges for improperly getting military housing and failing to report the weapons he had at the location.

The U.S. attorney's office in Tampa said Scott Allan Bennett hasn't been indicted but has been charged by criminal complaint for actions last year at MacDill Air Force Base, the headquarters of both Central Command and Special Operations Command.

The complaint -- dated December 16 in U.S. District Court in Tampa and unsealed two days ago -- said Bennett made a false statement and violated a defense property security regulation. A statement from MacDill Air Force Base said Bennett legally possessed the weapons but he had failed to register them as the base required.

Bennett had an initial court appearance in Washington on Wednesday and was released on his own recognizance, and his preliminary hearing will be next Friday at U.S. District Court in Tampa, the attorney's office said.

An affidavit from an air force detective laid out this timeline:

Early on April 23, Bennett was selected for random screening when he entered a gate at the base.

Two knives and an empty gun holster were found in the inspection of the man's car. When Bennett was asked if there were more weapons in the car, he said there weren't any.

Officers "noticed that Bennett appeared dazed and confused" and they called in Tampa police, who ran a field sobriety test and then arrested the man for driving under the influence.

Bennett was searched and authorities found a "concealed, loaded handgun." Police also searched his vehicle and found another loaded handgun, three more knives, a box of throwing stars, a machete, a collapsible baton, Mace and a slingshot with BBs.

After he was released by police, he returned to the gate at the base. Authorities read him his rights and Bennett asserted his right to remain silent and asked for a lawyer. Military officials wanted Bennett's permission to search his home at the base but Bennett denied it.

After a military judge OK'd a search warrant, weapons and ammunition were found at Bennett's residence, including seven loaded firearms, about 9,389 more rounds of ammunition, several knives, brass knuckles, an electric stun gun, and a collapsible baton.

MacDill required him to register any weaponry he intended to keep in his residence but he had not reported any of the items. Also, he was not permitted to carry concealed weapons on base.

During the probe, the affidavit continues, investigators learned that Bennett "obtained housing on MacDill Air Force Base by subterfuge." Active duty orders are required to live on the base.

While Bennett is a member of the Army Reserves, his commander said he "has not been on active duty orders at any time relevant to this complaint and has only been on active duty orders one time during his membership in the Army Reserves to attend a week-long training session."

Bennett was employed as a contractor by Booz Allen Hamilton "during some time periods relevant to the complaint," and his supervisor at that company said he "was operating strictly as a civilian."

The affidavit says Bennett "repeatedly held himself out to officials in the Housing Office" at the air base as being on active duty and eventually was approved for the on-base living quarters.

Bennett said his "incoming unit assignment" was Central Command and he was transferred from "11th PSYOP Battalion." which was his "assigned unit in the Army Reserves."

And, he visited the base housing office "dressed in a military uniform" and said he was working as "Admiral Olsen's aide and that Admiral Olsen had directed him to obtain government housing as quickly as possible," the affidavit says.

David Chalela, Bennett's attorney, said the DUI case has not been resolved.

As far as the accusations made in the affidavit, he said Bennett was just following his orders.

Regarding the charge concerning the weapons, Chalela said Bennett had moved on base "just a few days" prior to the April 23 incident.

He said Bennett hadn't completed all the paperwork required of him, including the form telling the Air Force what weapons he had in his home.

At present, Bennett is no longer living on the base; he is in a Tampa condominium, Chalela said.

The attorney said Booz Allen Hamilton had let Bennett go and his client is looking for work.

The company said Bennett "no longer works" there, but "the incident was not in any way related to his employment with us."

Chalela said he has been working with the Air Force to settle the matter.

A statement from MacDill Air Force Base mirrors the information in the affidavit. It said Bennett "was apprehended by base security forces during a random base entry vehicle check."

It said "the security forces members followed established procedures and discovered legal weapons in his vehicle, but the weapons were not properly registered with the 6th Security Forces Squadron.''

Later, authorities determined that Bennett "falsely presented himself on active duty status to gain residence on the installation. Once his status was verified, his eligibility for base housing was revoked."

CNN's Larry Shaughnessy contributed to this report

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