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Millions of dollars worth of fraud uncovered in a National Guard recruiting program in which recruiters secretly pocketed referral bonuses is likely far worse than was earlier known, an Army general told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

An Army probe earlier had found that the incentive program to recruit National Guard soldiers was plagued with fraud — totaling at least $29 million.

But on Tuesday a Senate panel heard from Army investigators as well as others involved in the National Guard recruiting program who gave details of the misappropriations.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) speaks about pending legislation regarding sexual assaults in the military at a Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 4, 2013.LARRY DOWNING / Reuters file

Maj. Gen. David Quantok, head of Army criminal investigations, told the panel that amount of defrauded federal money may reach $50 million when the investigation is complete.

He said $66 million dollars yet to be examined may also have been fraudulent, but added $50 million is a more reasonable estimate.

The program was designed to pay soldiers bonuses of from $2,000 to $7,500 for persuading recruits to sign up for the National Guard. While recruiters were not eligible for the bonus, they figured out a way to scam the system, Army officials said.

When a volunteer showed up, recruiters would allegedly list the person as a "referral." The incentive money would then be paid to a third individual and the recruiters would share in the illegal gains, the officials said.

Quantok said the most one individual pocketed was "around $35,000 but I will tell you we have one case with five individuals that is nearly $1 million."

The panel chairwoman, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., pointed to evidence that "one major general committed fraud, 18 full colonels, 11 lt. colonels and dozens of other mid-level and junior officers."

Quizzed by McCaskill, Quantok said he “could not say” whether any of them had been punished.