Former U.S. Army Reserve member Jordan M. Jucutan yesterday took the witness stand in federal court and burst into tears as he denied stealing personal information from 18 potential soldiers to obtain money.
Jucutan testified that the confession statement that he wrote before U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command Special Agent Elizabeth H. Smith on March 31, 2015 was false.
“I was scared. Lost. I wanted to get out,” said Jucutan when his counsel, Pamela Brown Blackburn, asked why he made the false statement.
Smith testified for the U.S. government on Friday that during their interview, Jucutan issued a sworn statement admitting that he stole personal information from 18 potential soldiers.
Jucutan, who is a teacher, is on trial for four counts of wire fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft. He is accused to have engaged in a scheme to defraud and to obtain money by falsely claiming he referred soldiers to enlist in the Army Reserve through the Army Recruiter Assistant Program (AR-RAP).
Jucutan testified yesterday that when Army CID and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents first interviewed him at the FBI’s office on March 5, 2015, he was confused and couldn’t remember the answers to many questions as it happened five years ago at that time.
Jucutan said the agents only told him that they were fact-finders.
He said the interview was not enjoyable and even a little bit intimidating.
Jucutan said the agents told him that he received $17,000 payment for AR-RAP, but that he could only remember getting $8,000.
Jucutan said he was really confused and scared during that interview because he could not recall the answers to some questions and was just trying to remember anything.
He said he was trying to be honest in answering the questions.
Jucutan said each potential soldier he nominated he asked permission to get their personal information.
Jucutan said during the interviews on March 5 and 31, 2015, he was not told that he was a suspect.
He said he would have hired an attorney if he knew he was a suspect and brought to court.
Jucutan said he went back to FBI’s office on March 31, 2015 at 8am or 8:30am as the agents’ had instructed him to go to a second interview.
Jucutan said he feels intimidated when he was taken in a small room with special agent Smith.
“I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know what she can do. I was scared. I was confused,” he said.
Jucutan said he just signed and initialed some documents as Smith instructed him to do.
He said he was scared, confused, and wanted to get out because Smith was asking questions over and over.
Showed by Blackburn a copy of his narrative statement he made on March 31, 2015, Jucutan admitted he typed it by himself when Smith left him alone.
Asked by Blackburn why he wrote the word “stole,” Jucutan replied that he was not comfortable using the word.
Jucutan then burst into tears.
“I did not steal,” said Jucutan, his voice was shivering.
He said Smith repeatedly told him that whatever he did, he was stealing.
“I wanted to get out. I was confused,” he said.
Jucutan stressed that he did not steal personal information from the persons he nominated and that he followed AR-RAP rules and procedures.
Jucutan said he nominated a total of 38 potential soldiers.
Jucutan disclosed that he cried during that March 31 interview because he was stressed, lost, and confused with the questions repeatedly asked to him.
“All the questions were asked over and over again. Repeating and repeating. I’m trying to remember. I guess I was overwhelmed,” he said.
Jucutan said he was not disputing that he received payments for bonus in the AR-RAP.
Jucutan said he does not know why he is charged and brought to court. At this juncture, he cried again as he continued his testimony and stated he was testifying for the truth.
As to Blackburn’s question on his background, the defendant said he has no prior criminal conviction and has no traffic ticket.
Jucutan said he is now testifying for the truth and that he was not speculating.
On cross-examination, assistant U.S. attorney Russell Lorfing asked why was he scared that he could be shot during the interview, Jucutan said the FBI agent had a gun.
Jucutan said he watched it on TV at Foxnews and You Tube about being shot during interviews.
When Saipan Tribune left the courtroom yesterday afternoon, Lorfing was still cross-examining the defendant. The trial will resume today, Tuesday, at 8am.