SEOUL — A 2nd Infantry Division soldier suspected of smuggling synthetic drugs was to be turned over to South Korean custody, according to U.S. and South Korean officials.
The soldier was identified Tuesday by 2ID as Pvt. Michael A. Lehmkuhl of the 70th Brigade Support Battalion, 210th Fires Brigade.
According to U.S. Forces Korea, both South Korean law and the Status of Forces Agreement require prosecutors to indict a suspect within 30 days of his initial arrest if he is being held in pretrial confinement.
The prosecutor said the soldier is suspected of ordering 3,480 grams (122 ounces) of synthetic marijuana, or Spice, on the Internet, having it delivered through international mail and then selling it to other U.S. troops and foreigners for a profit. Packages containing the drug were found by Korean customs officials, the prosecutor said.
At least two other Americans have been implicated in what the prosecutor described as a drug ring. 2ID spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Scrocca said one of the Americans was a former U.S. soldier, but could offer no additional details.
South Korea’s Ministry of Justice requested a transfer of custody on July 18, two days after a judge reviewed the case and determined there was sufficient evidence to issue a detention warrant for the soldier, according to a statement from 2ID.
The impending indictment of the 2ID soldier and the size of the drug bust have attracted widespread attention in socially conservative South Korea, where drug usage is treated harshly by authorities.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Monday that the Spice case could lead to heavier inspection of mail sent to USFK troops, though no additional inspection measures have been decided yet.
Customs officials already use X-ray machines and drug-sniffing dogs at the USFK Joint Military Mail Terminal.
Any additional inspection measures would be closely coordinated with USFK, with the goal of not interrupting the flow of mail, said a ministry official.