WASHINGTON (AP) — An oil and fuel trade government that Energy Secretary Rick Perry really useful as an adviser to the Ukrainian authorities exaggerated his army credentials, in line with U.S. veterans who mentioned he scrubbed the false info from on-line profiles after studying they have been investigating his service report.
Robert Joseph Bensh claimed to have been a member of the U.S. army’s most elite fight models: Army Rangers, Special Forces and Delta Force, the hyper-secret counter-terrorism group. But a abstract of his army profession obtained by The Associated Press by means of a Freedom of Information Act request reveals he spent lower than 5 years in uniform, nearly all of it with the Army National Guard. Bensh was on energetic obligation for only some months, in line with the abstract.
Bensh, 52, declined to offer remark for this story.
Information on Bensh’s private web site and social media says he has greater than 20 years of expertise within the oil and fuel trade in Ukraine and different international locations. AP reported earlier this week that Perry had knowledgeable Ukrainian officers throughout conferences in Kyiv that the Trump administration needed to switch your complete supervisory board of the nation’s largest fuel firm, Naftogaz.
The Naftogaz supervisory board is meant to be chosen by the Ukrainian president’s Cabinet in session with worldwide establishments, together with the International Monetary Fund, the United States and the European Union. It should be accredited by the Ukrainian Cabinet.
Among the candidates Perry really useful have been Bensh and Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-American businessman from Texas. Perry additionally prompt Daniel Yergin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer whose work focuses on the worldwide power trade, and Carlos Pascual, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in the course of the Clinton and Bush administrations.
The Department of Energy didn’t reply to questions Friday about whether or not Perry was conscious of Bensh’s prior false claims relating to his army profession or whether or not the secretary stood by his suggestion.
Bensh, who relies in Houston, has lengthy operated out and in of Kyiv, the place he served as an power adviser to the Ukrainian authorities beneath the pro-Russian regime of President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted from workplace in a 2014 well-liked rebellion.
According to an internet biography AP recovered from an web archive, Bensh labored intently with Yuri Boyko, Yanukovych’s power minister and former vice-prime minister. Boyko, one of many few overtly pro-Russian politicians left in Ukraine, made headlines earlier this yr when he traveled to Moscow to fulfill with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s second in command.
Another archived on-line profile from 2010 reviewed by AP listed Bensh as a former non-commissioned officer with U.S. Army Special Operations, in addition to the third Ranger Battalion, seventh Special Forces Group and 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta Education.
None of that matches Bensh’s precise army report, obtained by AP from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.
The web page Valor Guardians has included Bensh in its “Valor Thieves Gallery” since 2014, following an examination of his army background performed by a Special Forces veteran. The website mentioned that after it contacted Bensh he scrubbed “any references to his imagined military from the internet where he could.” But display captures of his Facebook profile and a profile on the web site SourceWatch had been preserved.
Dave Hardin, a former Marine and the lead investigator at Valor Guardians, mentioned he hardly ever removes an individual from the Valor Thieves Gallery out of concern they’ll “reinvent” their careers once more.
“We have to stay vigilant,” Hardin mentioned. “If just anybody can claim honor in military service, then there is no honor.”
Jeff Hinton, the retired Special Forces grasp sergeant who first examined Bensh’s background, mentioned individuals who overstate or falsify their army service typically achieve this as a result of they consider future employers or purchasers shall be extra impressed by a former soldier who scaled the very best peaks of the particular operations world than one who sat behind a desk or labored within the motor pool.
“He was prolific about it,” Hinton mentioned of Bensh. “Any profile he had, he included it.”
Bensh enlisted within the Army in 1989, in line with the federal abstract of his army report. There’s no indication he deployed to a battle zone and he was discharged in 1993 with the rank of specialist. He spent practically six extra years in reserve standing, and was not known as up for obligation, the information present.
He earned the National Defense Service Medal, which is given to service members who served honorably throughout a interval of battle whether or not they noticed fight or not, and a Sharpshooter badge, which troopers obtain for passing the marksmanship coaching course.
His LinkedIn web page features a reference to his Army service, though it says it started in 1986. The web page additionally says he frolicked on a “special work detail” with the Drug Enforcement Administration in New York. The older model of Bensh’s bio had described him as a DEA Special Agent.
Bensh’s connections in Ukraine stretch again to 2001 when he was chairman and CEO of Carpatsky Petroleum, which operated within the Eastern European nation. He’s additionally listed in enterprise information as a director of Pelicourt Limited, an organization registered in Cyprus, which is the most important shareholder of Houston-based Cub Energy, that held an curiosity in 9 oil and fuel licenses in Ukraine, in line with its 2018 annual report.
Yet some public details about his oil and fuel profession can also be incorrect.
Bensh’s private web page mentioned he “currently serves as the executive chairman on the board of directors of Rose Petroleum,” a U.Okay.-based oil and fuel firm. But Bensh’s affiliation with Rose fell by means of slightly greater than a month after it was introduced earlier this yr, in line with statements the corporate filed with the London Stock Exchange, after he failed to fulfill phrases of a contract that required him to take a position $336,000 within the firm.
“Mr. Bensh has no further relationship with the company or the new board, nor does the company believe that Mr. Bensh is a shareholder in the company,” mentioned Peter Curtain, a spokesman for Rose.
Associated Press investigative reporter Desmond Butler contributed.
Follow Associated Press investigative reporters Richard Lardner at http://twitter.com/rplardner and Michael Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck