A former Arizona Air National Guard commander has agreed to deal allowing him to avoid prosecution on charges he masterminded a scheme to falsify records to receive added pay.

Retired Col. Gregg Davies accepted a “prosecution diversion agreement” that requires him to pay back the National Guard for wages he fraudulently collected in return for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office dropping the charges against him.

“Justice does not necessarily mean a conviction,” said Assistant Attorney General Mike Jette.

Information was not available on how much of the estimated $1.4 million in fraudulent payments Davies and 20 others are accused of receiving is Davies’ responsibility.

The 21 current and former guardsmen were accused in October of falsifying documents to make it appear they lived outside the Tucson area while on active-duty status at different times between November 2007 and September 2010.

That status earned them as much as five times more in living-expense reimbursements than they were actually entitled to.

In the agreement, Davies admitted his role in having received the other defendants’ reimbursement requests even though he knew the requests to be improper.

He also agreed he did not put “effective controls in place” that would have prevented the fraud.

Davies is the first of the defendants to accept the deal, which attorney general’s officials say will be or has been offered to the others.

“We are obviously pleased that the Arizona Attorney General’s Office ultimately agreed with us that the case should be dismissed,” Davies attorney Lee Stein said. “Col. Davies is proud of his service to this country and has great respect for the men and women who serve in the armed forces.”

The Attorney General’s Office wanted to make a deal with the defendants because of the time and expense prosecuting the cases would have taken.

Because of the number of defendants, prosecuting the case could have taken years and commanded the entire caseload of at least one assistant attorney general. Jette said if the defendants had been granted motions to sever their cases there may have been 21 separate prosecutions.

In addition, Jette said the case was extremely complex, having been turned down by the U.S. attorney, and could prove difficult to explain to jurors.

“I have not come across a more difficult case in my career as this one,” he said.

Jette said all the defendants face probation-eligible charges and likely would not face prison sentences if convicted.

Reforms have since been made to ensure against future pay scandals such as this one, Jette said.

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at 573-4241 or pmcnamara@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @pm929.