The Best Decision I Could Have Made
In May of 2019 I was investigated by NCIS, along with 34 other Activated Reservists, for matters related to travel claim submissions and alleged “overpayment.” They had apparently received a tip that people were claiming “more than they should have been” for their lodging and interviewed everyone to figure out why it happened and what was going on. By the end of their investigation we thought that it would be clear it was a misunderstanding and we were instructed to do the process by our Reserve Admin and Command incorrectly, but what we didn't know is that they compile results and the COMMAND decides what to do with them. As you can imagine, the powers that be weren't interested in anyone with rank taking responsibility, namely the Convening Authority who ultimately decided what to do with us. He believed we were all guilty and wanted all of us to burn, take deals, and go home. So much for Leadership Traits and Principles.
The only positive thing was I predicted as much before things happened and hired Ernesto Gapasin about 10 days before I was interviewed by NCIS. We reviewed the facts of case along with what would happen next and developed a flexible strategy moving forward. He was very approachable and listened to my daily concerns as things went from bad to worse and the command worked overtime to try and get me to take a deal. They even sent our 1stSgt (who we liked) to talk to us before ANYONE had a chance to talk to an attorney and say we had no chance and we should just take the deals we were given along with an OTH because even if we didn't mean to do it, “we still did it.” For a Reservist with no background in law or investigations, I nearly took a deal as well but, again, Ernesto alongside my Assigned Defense Counsel kept me grounded and assured me that we would fight tooth and nail for what was right. We weren't accepting any deals and I wasn't going to take the fall for something that I didn't do. The same couldn't be said for about 30 others though who would take deals within a month or so after hearing that same conversation.
I would eventually go on to be the only Reservist left from the original activation on an Active Duty Base where everyone believed I was a criminal. Very few people treated me well and I was an anxious mess needing someone to talk to regularly. I also couldn't go home after being activated on TDY for over 2 years because I was on legal hold. Again, Ernesto and my defense counsel grounded me and kept me from breaking on a regular basis. My life was on the line and everything would end if I took any form of loss. GI Bill, Doctoral aspirations, everything. A federal conviction would ruin me.
After several continuances from matters outside our control, I was finally able to go to court June 2020 (this week actually) to clear my name. It was a brutal dog fight but we were prepared, giving us the ability to catch EVERY government witness in Contradictory Testimony and put on a master class of a performance during cross and redirect. Which leads me to my final point—Ernesto is an amazing attorney.
Ernesto is the type of attorney who uses his understanding of the facts and smooth delivery to set traps for the prosecution and illicit the truth during cross examination. NOT ONCE did I feel like, “wow we could have done more,” or “he should've done this.” Ernesto nailed everything from Opening to Closing and I waited in that deliberation fearful but confident I would be acquitted. And an hour and a half later...that's exactly what happened.
Ernesto Gapasin not only gave me the acquittal but he also freed me from being here after 3 years. He doesn't like to lose and he takes your case as seriously as you do! NEVER talk to investigators and stay away from people who could use your conversations against you. He will be the best decision you could ever make when your back is against the wall. I'm living proof!