MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — A staff sergeant assigned to the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron received a bad-conduct discharge, reduction in rank to E-1 and 90 days’ base confinement for shoplifting more than $800 of merchandise from the base exchange.

Christopher B. Rhodes pleaded guilty in military court on Tuesday to larceny. The 35th Fighter Wing’s deputy staff judge advocate, Maj. David Vercellone, who prosecuted the case with Capt. Jason Spence, said that Rhodes and his wife were apprehended with the stolen goods immediately after leaving the BX following a shopping trip this summer.

“Most of it was DVDs and video games and the like,” he said, “all in one shot.”

The couple, the prosecutor said, bought a few items, exited the store briefly, and returned, grabbing a shopping cart. After putting a number of articles in the cart, they proceeded to a corner of the store, where Rhodes tried to shield his wife while she stuffed the items in the bags, Vercellone said. “She then grabbed a couple of other small items on the way out, paid for those,” he said, and the two pushed the cart out of the store “with all the other stuff they hadn’t paid for.”

Store officials first noticed the couple on surveillance cameras, Vercellone said.

“They knew something was up; it looked aberrant,” he said. “They followed them all around the store and apprehended them after they left the store.”

The lesson learned, Vercellone said: “If you think they can’t see you, you’re wrong. The footage and the technology they have available to them for surveillance is actually pretty advanced … from just about any angle, you can truly see everything that goes on in the store.”

Rhodes, who enlisted in the Air Force more than five years ago, is serving his 90-day confinement on base. Vercellone said because Rhodes was being discharged from the service, he did not know whether Rhodes’ wife would go before the Misawa Conduct Adjudication Program, a forum that addresses civilian and family member misconduct.

Col. Steven A. Hatfield, chief Pacific circuit military judge, presided over Tuesday’s court-martial. Capt. Christina Jimenez, Pacific circuit defense counsel from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and Capt. Jonathan Wasden, area defense counsel at Misawa, represented Rhodes.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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