The notion that Afghan shooting suspect Staff Sgt. Robert Bales had troubles at home has been vaguely espoused since last week, but on Tuesday the exact nature of at least some of his domestic woes became clearer: Bales owes millions for a fraud settlement and two underwater homes.
The news casts him in two opposing lights: Many will find sympathy with a soldier struggling to keep his family together under the burden of $500,000 debt on two properties he bought in 2006 at the height of the housing bubble. But the bulk of Bales debt comes not from unfortunate circumstances but from his own dishonest actions in the form of a $1.4 million judgment that found he defrauded an Ohio couple.
Before Bales joined the Army he worked as a stock trader, and while on the job regulators found he took part in fraud and "unauthorized trading," according to The Washington Post. "A review of the investor’s account statements, obtained by The Washington Post, shows that valuable stocks were sold off in favor of penny stocks as part of what the arbitrator called 'churning' by Bales to pump up commissions." Bales never paid the client what an arbitrator ruled he owed, and eventually the client stopped looking for him. Add the fraud ruling to the hit-and-run collision and the assault on a girlfriend Bales was accused of over the last decade, and the simple portrait of a good soldier and family man, painted by his neighbors and his wife's blog and public statement, becomes a lot more complex.