Here is the Virginian-Pilot’s coverage of the guilty plea of Navy LCDR Christopher Lee Tappen.  Tappen plead guilty yesterday to stealing roughly $74,000 from a Navy SEAL unit while assigned to purchasing functions for the unit.  It looks like his primary duty was to help the SEALs learn about UAVs. From the story:

While stationed with the Navy SEALs, Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Lee Tappen wanted an easy way to fly home to the West Coast to see his wife. The plan he devised now could land him in prison.

Tappen, 35, admitted in federal court Wednesday that he built a plane, on the government’s dime, out of parts he ordered through his job. He pleaded guilty to filing a false claim and faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced April 1. . . .

In 2011, while stationed with Naval Special Warfare Group 2 at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Tappen was responsible for purchasing materials and equipment. Authorities said he had little oversight.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Rountree told the judge that Tappen began telling colleagues in early 2011 that he was building a plane so he could more easily visit his wife in San Diego.

He began ordering parts for a you-build-it Velocity airplane. Tappen also persuaded the Defense Department to send him to Florida to learn how to fly a drone. Rountree said Tappen really went to Florida to learn how to fly his Velocity.

“Many of the items that Tappen ordered served no apparent military function,” Rountree said.

In March 2011, Tappen transferred to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. He took his plane with him and rented a hangar to store it.

Back at Little Creek, Tappen’s old colleagues began noticing that the parts, supplies and tools they knew Tappen had ordered could not be located. They called in agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

When agents questioned Tappen in California, he initially gave them evasive answers but finally admitted that he used his purchasing authority to buy aircraft parts that he kept himself, Rountree said.

But he said he kept the parts only because they did not work in the drone flight simulator that had been legitimately purchased for the special warfare unit. The agents were still dubious.

You can’t make this stuff up.  H/t JK

7 Responses to “Navy Pilot Convicted in $74,000 “Theft” from SEAL Unit”

  1. Dew_Process says:

    Anyone have any idea as to why this case wasn’t tried via court-martial???  The only thing that comes to my mind is that a federal court can order restitution which a c-m can’t.

  2. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    Procurement fraud is typically prosecuted in USD court.  Typically the investigations involve civilian and military conspirators, though it appears this case did not.  It also makes getting civilian search warrants a lot easier.

  3. AF_DC says:

    If I were counsel on this case I could not be able to resist throwing in a Johnny Cash reference.

  4. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    You guys and the Klipper are old souls. All I thought of was that he should change his call sign to “Radar O’Reilly.”

  5. Ex TC says:


     What makes you think that such a case was ever presented to the RLSO for prosecution vice right to the US Atty office by law enforcement?

    It was never a UCMJ case. Which is sad but an all to often story nowadays.  

  6. Dew_Process says:

    @ ExTC:  Check out DoDD 5525.07 – unless as No Man suggested above and there were civilians involved, it looks like a UCMJ case.

  7. stewie says:

    packed my bags last night, pre-flight
    Zero hour, nine a.m.
    And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then