CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Japanese Narcotics Control Office recently presented the Marine Provost Marshal’s Office Criminal Investigation Division with an award for its part in a drug investigation that disrupted a small marijuana growing operation run by several Americans.

The Japanese award was the first such recognition for Marine investigators, said chief investigator Gunnery Sgt. Andrew A. Mosley. Previously, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service handled such cases.

The marijuana case began when base military police made a routine traffic stop at Camp Foster and discovered a small amount of the drug, Mosley said, noting when drugs are found Japanese police are notified and take over the case, even if it occurs on-base.

Mosley said the case eventually led to the arrests of Robert Evans, a former Marine Corps Community Services employee at Camp Kinser, and Matthew Chapple, a former Air Force member who taught part-time in a Japanese elementary school.

Chapple grew the marijuana in a closet in his home; Evans sold it to Americans on Okinawa, police said.

In September, Chapple was sentenced to three years prison, suspended for four years, and fined 500,000 yen, or about $4,500. In October, Evans was given a suspended 18-month prison sentence and fined 200,000 yen, or about $1,800.

CID investigators formerly sent suspected narcotics to the States for laboratory testing, Mosley said. Now, a Japanese lab tests suspected drugs, cutting the wait time for results from months to several days.

“We can provide a more immediate response by taking quicker action and going after the individual,” Mosley said. “It allows us to capture the individual before they talk and spread the word to others that they got caught.”

Since the initial investigation between the two agencies, Mosley said, his investigators have sent 10 samples to Narcotics Control Office for testing.

“We need to keep vigilant eyes on drug abuse on Okinawa,” Asato said chief investigator Akihito Asato, of the Okinawa bureau of the Narcotics Control Office. “To maintain our good relations and teamwork, continued cooperation is essential.”

If the two agencies had worked poorly with each other, “It would’ve been a dead end,” Mosley said. ”We would’ve gotten the little guys here, but we never would’ve gotten the dealer.”

— Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report

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