Two of three people who admitted stealing about $400,000 of government property that was being transferred to the National Center for Toxicological Research from the shutdown of the chemical weapons stockpile at the Pine Bluff Arsenal were sentenced to federal prison Wednesday.
Lee Ann Branch, 41, and Kyle Branch, also 41, both of White Hall, pleaded guilty Nov. 21, 2013, to one count of theft of government property and sentencing was deferred while a pre-sentencing investigation was conducted.
On Wednesday, Federal Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. sentenced Lee Ann Branch to 30 months in prison and Kyle Branch to 20 months in prison, followed by three years supervised probation for each of the two. They were also ordered to repay $248,535 to NCTR.
The two could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, fined up to $250,000 or both.
When he pronounced sentence, the judge said he took Kyle Branch’s medical condition — cancer — into consideration and recommended that Kyle Branch be placed in a medical facility close to Central Arkansas. Kyle Branch was ordered to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on Sept. 30 and Lee Ann Branch was ordered to report June 9.
A third defendant, Travis Love Donald, 38, of Sherwood, who also pleaded guilty last November, is scheduled to be sentenced by Marshall on May 22.
The investigation into the thefts began in March 2013 and involved the FBI, the Army Criminal Investigation Division, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and NCTR.
According to the government, Lee Ann Branch worked for NCTR and was in charge of property and the process of obtaining property from other federal agencies. Investigators learned that Lee Ann Branch would show up at the warehouse where the property was being stored in a box truck, then take items to a rented storage facility in White Hall. Kyle Branch would then sell the items from the warehouse and on eBay and Craig’s list.
Some of the stolen property was recovered at the storage facility, at the Branch’s residence and at Donald’s home in Sherwood.
As a part of the plea agreement, Kyle and Lee Ann Branch agreed to forfeit all property that was used to commit the thefts and property that was acquired using profits from the sale. That included a 1998 Baja Outlaw Boat with a Mercruiser motor and SPRS trailer.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Walker prosecuted the case for the United States.