Dozens sought for questioning in theft of military gear at Camp Lejeune
April 8, 2005
ARLINGTON, Va. — In a sting operation dubbed “Pirate Trader,” military officials at Camp Lejeune, N.C., are now arresting nearly 90 suspects implicated in the theft of more than $200,000 worth of military gear, including several weapons, communications equipment and dangerous training ordnance.
Arrests by Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents began Wednesday and were still ongoing Thursday afternoon, according to Lejeune spokesman Maj. Neil F. Murphy Jr.
Although he could not say how many were still unaccounted for, Murphy said 88 suspects — including 58 Marines, two sailors and 28 civilians — are wanted for questioning.
The stolen equipment included a virtual arms dump of gear and equipment, including:
Weapons: An M-16 assault rifle, an SKS 7.62mm carbine, seven expended AT-4 rocket launchers, empty M-16 magazines, smoke and signal grenades as well as training grenades with explosive blasting caps designed to simulate the sound of a real grenade.Gear: 64 sets of Kevlar helmets and body armor, 14 cases of Meals, Ready-to-Eat and assorted field equipment including sleeping bags, cold weather jackets and canteens.Communications equipment: Nine Motorola hand-held radios, a plasma television and video recording equipment.“There is no indication that any equipment was sold to terrorist groups or militant organizations,” Murphy said. Some of the gear had shown up for sale at a local pawnshop as well as the online auction house eBay, he said.
Some of the suspects are believed to have been operating in small groups; investigators do not believe the thefts were part of a larger conspiracy, Murphy said.
And while officials do not believe there are any additional weapons unaccounted for, Murphy encouraged anyone with information on stolen arms or other military equipment to immediately contact authorities.
The arrests are the result of a months-long NCIS investigation, Murphy said, with suspects at several units throughout the area, including New River and Cherry Point Marine Corps air stations and on Camp Lejeune itself.
“We want to emphasize that the Marine Corps and Navy simply do not tolerate this kind of thing,” Murphy said.
He said leaders are being ordered “to review property control measures and accountability practices at the small unit level throughout all the commands.”