A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a Tennessee man who stole more than 500 military body armor vests headed to the scrap heap to six months in prison.
Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan ordered Timothy Warren Mann, 51, of Morristown to spend six months in prison and another six months on home detention for his plea of guilty to theft of U.S. government property.
Mann worked as a maintenance man for the BAE Specialty Defense Group in Jefferson County. The firm manufactured military body armor for the U.S. Department of Defense.
In June 2012, the firm lost its DOD contract and was forced to close up shop. Assistant Federal Defender Paula Voss said Mann was part of a small crew left to shut down the factory.
“It is an unusual factual basis,” Voss said of Mann’s path from hardworking citizen to vest thief.
The DOD had ordered the plant manager to destroy whatever pieces of body armor it still had in the firm’s inventory, some of which had been deemed defective by military standards, she told Varlan.
The plant manager told Mann and the rest of the skeleton screw “to take a handful” of vests if they wanted, so Mann did, selling them in a yard sale, Voss said. A customer at Mann’s yard sale who sold military surplus items told Mann he’d buy as many vests as Mann could get at $100 each, she said.
“That’s how this began,” Voss said. “It wasn’t some kind of plot. He was almost encouraged (by the plant manager) to take this first group (of vests).”
Over the next six months, Mann took more than 500 vests from the factory and resold them, records stated.
When confronted by investigators, Mann quickly confessed and helped authorities track down most of the vests.
Federal prosecutors argued that the military wanted the vests destroyed, rather than treated as military surplus, because officials feared the vests could wind up on the chests of criminals. They urged a year in prison, but Varlan sided with Voss in her bid for a sentence split between prison and home confinement.
Mann apologized at Tuesday’s hearing in U.S. District Court.
“I have total respect for the military, and I’m truly sorry for what I did,” he said.
Varlan is allowing Mann to remain free pending a decision by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on what federal facility he will serve his time.