Navy recruiter’s false promises allegedly snare Kapolei students
Petty Officer 1st Class Jimmy Pecadeso’s tactics have drawn previous complaints
By Susan Essoyan
Enlist in the Navy now, the recruiter told Cory Miyasato and Joseph Mauga Jr., and get a free, four-year college education before going off to sea.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Joseph Mauga Jr., right, and his friend, Cory Miyasato, were allegedly railroaded into enlisting in the U.S. Navy just before graduating from Kapolei High School. The recruiter is accused of promising they could get a free education from the Navy before seeing active duty.
The two Kapolei High School seniors thought they could believe the talkative Navy recruiter in the spotless white uniform. Mauga wanted to become a naval officer after college. His father is a 20-year Navy veteran and 11 of his uncles have served in the military.
Miyasato, an honor student, also was intrigued. “The full-ride scholarship really interested me,” he said. “I am a very trusting person. I thought the U.S. government would be truthful to me.”
With the military under pressure to keep producing fresh troops for an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, a few recruiters stretch the truth – or worse – to meet their quotas. Mauga and Miyasato, both 18, say they found that out the hard way.
It wasn’t until after the pair enlisted in the Navy’s Delayed Entry Program on May 29 that they discovered they would be going off to boot camp and then full-time active duty, scrubbing and painting ships, before earning any college benefits. And it wasn’t until their irate parents raised a ruckus that they learned that the recruiter who lured them into enlisting had already run into trouble for his heavy-handed tactics with students.
Kapolei High School Principal Alvin Nagasako told the Star-Bulletin that Petty Officer 1st Class Jimmy Pecadeso had been banned from recruiting on campus for being “overly aggressive” and “doing things that appear not to be ethical. It was told to his supervisor by our counselor not once but multiple times,” Nagasako said.
Recruiters are allowed to meet with students at the school only with parental permission and if a counselor is present. In this case, the recruiter tracked down Miyasato off campus after getting his cell-phone number from another student. The seniors were about to graduate from Kapolei High and had already enrolled at local colleges.
Cory’s mother, Jayne Arasaki, was skeptical, so she went along on one visit to the recruiting station and heard the same promise from Pecadeso. “He did lie to me,” she said. “He said the Navy would pay for four years of college and then Cory would be obligated to serve four years.”
Pecadeso did not return a call from the Star-Bulletin, and his supervisor, Petty Officer 1st Class Latasha Kahana, said they were not authorized to speak to the press. But the spokesman for the Navy Recruiting Station Los Angeles, which includes Hawaii, said the case would be investigated.
“Nobody should be railroaded into buying a car, a house, or joining the military under false pretenses by being misled,” said Petty Officer 1st Class David McKee, public affairs officer for the district.
“When it comes out that a recruiter has misled an applicant, it reflects poorly on all recruiters and the Navy and the military,” he said. “The military does take this seriously. The family can be assured that the recruiter is going to be investigated.”
Concern over recruiter tactics prompted a study by the General Accounting Office in 2006 that found claims of recruiter misconduct were on an upswing, although they remained rare. It noted that the military services do not track all allegations and the data likely underestimates the problem.
There were 2,456 claims of recruiter “irregularities” among 22,000 recruiters and nearly 318,000 new enlistees in 2006, according to more recent data from the U.S. State Department. Most involved “concealment, falsification or undue influence.” About one in five claims was substantiated.
“I feel my son was railroaded into enlisting for active duty with the Navy,” Arasaki said. “The whole process took less than a week. Cory was enticed with money, prestige as an officer, college and other military benefits.”
At 5 p.m. the day after she met Pecadeso, the recruiter picked up both boys and whisked them off to spend the night at an airport hotel, courtesy of the Navy, saying they needed to get an early start on medical testing and security clearance at the Military Entrance Processing Station at Pearl Harbor. He promised to have them back by noon.
It was nearly 24 hours before the brought them back, late for graduation practice at 4 p.m. Their worried mothers had been trying to reach them by phone, but their cell phones were confiscated on base as a security measure.
“They were just going to see what they had to offer,” Gloria Mauga said. “I did not know my child was going to come back enlisted. They couldn’t even call to ask us advice. It’s like they kidnapped our sons.”
Their contracts noted that they were eligible for the Navy College Fund, and the boys say they thought they were signing up to go to school full time.
At first, the Maugas thought Joseph might have signed up for ROTC, but when they reviewed the contract, they realized he would be entering as an enlisted man at the lowest level. It was 10 p.m., but they immediately jumped up to call Pecadeso on his cell phone to cancel it.
“He said, ‘Just don’t have him show up (for his ship date) at the end of December, we’ll consider it canceled,'” Joseph Mauga Sr. recalled.
Instead, the families are working to get immediate discharges and written assurances that the boys’ careers will not be affected. McKee, the Navy spokesman, said the two young men can opt out with no penalty.
“At any point in the Delayed Entry Program, if a person decides that they do not want to join the military, they’re not obligated,” he said. “We discourage people from just walking away from the process. But before you go to basic training, you are under no obligation to continue.”
McKee apologized for any miscommunication, and noted that recruiters may feel time pressure as their monthly deadlines approach. Hawaii recruiters are expected to produce 30 new enlistees for the Navy this month.
“Not everyone who becomes a recruiter is a talented communicator,” McKee added. “Some are used to working in an engine room. … Please don’t write the military off completely.”
Pecadeso, who has been a recruiter since 2005, joined the military in 1998 and is trained in surface warfare as a gas system turbine technician-electrician.
He told Mauga and Miyasato they could earn higher pay if they recruited a few friends before going off to basic training. Navy regulations do permit bumping a recruit up to the E-3 level from E-1, a $240 difference per month, if they recruit two or more others.
But at this point, neither boy is interested in trying to sign up anyone else.
“Right now, all I want to do is get out of the military and continue my schooling by going to Leeward Community College,” Miyasato said.
BY THE NUMBERS
Recruiting for the U.S. Military, 2006
Number of recruiters: 22,000
Number of recruits: 318,000
Claims of misconduct: 2,456
Claims substantiated: 518
Source: “Military Recruiting and Recruiter Irregularities,” U.S. Department of State
To report Navy recruiter misconduct in Hawaii, contact the recruiter’s supervisor or district headquarters:
Navy Recruiting District Los Angeles
5051 Rodeo Road
Los Angeles, CA 90016
Tel. (800) 252-1588
For the Army, Air Force or Marines, contact the recruiting district headquarters for that branch of service.