Mildenhall airman pleads to selling stolen vests on-line
June 6, 2006
RAF MILDENHALL, England — Senior Airman Thurstan L. Freeman and his partner were operating a lucrative Internet business with all the trappings of a legitimate enterprise: personalized e-mail addresses, a PayPal account and a detailed ledger.
Until they tried to sell their stolen military goods to the FBI.
Freeman pleaded guilty Monday to three counts in connection with the roughly four-month ring in which the two United Kingdom-based airmen stole bulletproof vests and sold them over the Internet.
U.S. Air Force Judge (Col.) Gordon Hammock was deciding his sentence late Monday afternoon.
Freeman faced charges of intent to deceive by filing false U.S. Postal Service documents, disposal of government property and theft of government property, according to the 100th Staff Judge Advocate’s office.
Freeman and his partner, Airman Fredrick Williams, stole more than a dozen bulletproof vests from the 352nd Special Operations Group and sold them to buyers all over the U.S. and even in Japan via eBay, according to court testimony.
Williams was found guilty in a March court-martial and is now serving nine months at the RAF Lakenheath detention facility. Despite repeated requests from Stars and Stripes, the 100th Staff Judge Advocate’s office did not alert the media about Williams’ trial, and only released the information on Monday.
The string of thefts and subsequent online sales ran from November 2004 to February 2005. The two airmen had just returned from a deployment downrange prior to the commencement of the thefts.
The 14 Gator Hawk Class 3 Ballistic Vests were valued at $19,000. The men were selling the vests at about $300 each.
The two were busted after the FBI field office in Miami contacted an Air Force Office of Special Investigations in the United Kingdom about stolen military goods in February 2005.
As part of the plea, the judge read off a list that detailed the airmen’s illicit operation.
The two were using the RAF Mildenhall post office to send the vests, had a kept a computerized spreadsheet that detailed their expenses and profits and maintained an account with PayPal, an eBay company that allows anyone with an e-mail address to send and receive online payments.