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Former Boss: General’s No Thief

July 12, 1985

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A former Air Force general charged with embezzling from a $450,000 secret fund is not a thief, according to another former general, who testified as the prosecution’s last witness.

Former Maj. Gen. Richard B. Collins, 55, once an aide to former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, is charged with six counts of embezzling $19,000 from a clandestine account that he managed between 1975 and 1978.

But retired four-star Gen. Robert Huyser, who was Collins’ superior during that time, told U.S. District Judge James C. Paine’s court: ″I needed the best I could find, and in my opinion that was Gen. Collins. He got the job done.″

″Do you think he’s a thief?″ asked Collins’ attorney, Stephen Bronis.

″Absolutely not,″ Huyser answered.

After Huyser stepped down from the witness stand, Bronis argued that the prosecution had not proved its case.

″They’ve indicted him for doing nothing,″ Bronis said, requesting an acquittal. ″They have not shown any evidence.″

Paine said he was sympathetic, but that an appeals court ruling wouldn’t allow him to grant acquittal because there was enough circumstantial evidence to allow the jury to reach a conclusion.

Earlier, Pentagon accountant Jim Sandidge told jurors that Collins withdrew about $51,000 from the secret account in 1978 but that the cash couldn’t be traced.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Nicastro has argued that Collins illegally used the fund and pocketed about $19,000 in interest earned by the account while being shuttled between Swiss bank accounts.

Bronis said a $27,000 withdrawal went for account expenses and for covert missions during the Vietnam War. Also in 1978, $24,000 was used to open another secret military fund in Europe, he said.

Another $10,000 withdrawal repaid Collins’ family bank account, from which Swiss bankers had mistakenly taken money for the Air Force account, Bronis added. Both accounts were kept at the same bank.

Under cross-examination, Sandidge agreed that $10,000 could have repaid the accidental withdrawal by the bank.

The witness also said the account earned $46,000 in interest and that another $5,000 was earned during the banking error.

The exact purpose of the Air Force fund has not been stated in court, except that it was top-secret and used by the Air Force for Southeast Asia operations.

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