NORFOLK, Va. — A federal court jury Friday failed to reach a verdict in the trial of a former Military Sealift Command purser accused of stealing $350,000 from a ship safe.
Ismael “Mike” Estrada, 65, faces one count of embezzlement. Prosecutors allege that Estrada stole the money from a safe while on the supply ship Arctic.
U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr. sent the panel home to return Monday to continue deliberating. After hearing closing arguments Friday, jurors spent about three hours considering Estrada’s fate.
Prosecutors said bundles of what should have been $100 bills in the safe had been swapped out for smaller currencies to hide the theft. The ship was supposed to be carrying $690,000 last year when the theft was discovered.
Estrada’s lawyer argued that prosecutors failed to prove that his client stole the money. There were no eyewitnesses, only Estrada’s fingerprints on the remaining cash. He said that wouldn’t be unusual because the ship’s purser is the only person other than the captain authorized to handle the money.
Estrada had been on the Arctic since 2006 and had been a civilian employee of the Military Sealift Command for 14 years. Before that, he served 26 years in the Navy, retiring as a senior chief petty officer.
The theft was discovered when Estrada was transferred to another sealift command ship.