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USNS Arctic purser convicted of stealing $350,000 from ship' safe

USNS Arctic is a Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship.

NORFOLK, Va. -- A former Military Sealift Command purser has been convicted of embezzlement for stealing $350,000 from a ship's safe.

A federal court jury deliberated Friday afternoon and Monday morning before finding Ismael "Mike" Estrada guilty. He faces up to 10 years in prison. Sentencing is set for June 25.

Estrada, 65, of Norfolk, had been working as a civilian with the Sealift Command for 14 years and had been on the Arctic, a supply ship, since 2006. Before that, he served 26 years in the Navy, retiring as a senior chief petty officer.

After three days of testimony, the jury found that Estrada had taken more than half of the Arctic's $691,000 petty cash supply from a safe on board that he controlled.

The theft was discovered when Estrada was transferred to another Sealift Command ship. Officials found that bundles of money that should have been all $100 bills had been swapped out for smaller denominations

Estrada, through his attorney, argued that others, including the ship's captain, had access to the safe. Estrada did not testify or present evidence.

His attorney, James Theuer, declined to comment after the verdict.

Estrada had been free, but U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr. ordered him to post a $50,000 bond to remain out until sentencing.

The U.S. Attorney's Office issued a news release on the verdict, but prosecutors otherwise declined to comment.

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