Officials: Nearly $2 million in guns, combat gear sold to gangs

By LINDELL KAY AND MIKE MCHUGH | The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C. | Published: May 15, 2012

A wide-reaching investigation by military and civilian authorities has uncovered a criminal conspiracy within the Armed Forces to steal and sell nearly $2 million in guns and combat gear to gangs in the U.S. and foreign countries including China, military officials have confirmed.

The probe began more than a year and a half ago when agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service began to conduct undercover operations to disrupt and reduce the theft, transfer, sale and possession of stolen U.S. Government property. With the aid of Marine and Naval authorities, NCIS has recovered $1.8 million in stolen guns and combat gear to include assault rifles, night-vision goggles, flashlights and other items, military officials said.

Those involved are accused of stealing, over-ordering or otherwise obtaining equipment and selling guns locally and other gear over the Internet to people in foreign countries including China and Russia, officials said.

Those involved in the criminal enterprise did so for a multitude of reasons including but not exclusive to human greed and the ease by which the material could be pilfered, according to a government official familiar with the operation.

“We’re talking about sophisticated, hi-tech flashlights that cost the government up to $800 per unit. The temptation and ease with which to steal and sell them, for some, is irresistible,” the official said.

The commanders from Camp Lejeune and II Marine Expeditionary Force have been working closely with NCIS during the investigation, said Nat Fahy, deputy director of public relations for Marine Corps Installations East.

With cooperation from Marine and Navy officials, NCIS has been able to conduct 66 investigations involving 47 active duty Marines and sailors to include enlisted and high-ranking officers and 21 civilians who are now in various stages of prosecution.

NCIS agents identified stolen property from the Army and Air Force which launched numerous investigations involving soldiers and airmen, military officials confirmed.

The ever-widening probe now includes the FBI; Homeland Security; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Defense Logistics Agency; Defense Criminal Investigative Service, N.C. State Bureau of Investigations, and several local agencies including the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office and the Jacksonville Police Department.

In email correspondence about the operation, a NCIS spokesman told The Daily News more information would be forthcoming. Agents were tying up loose ends in some of the cases before releasing details, said Ed Buice, public affairs officer for NCIS in Quantico, Va.

A handful of those arrested in the sweeping operation have already been court martialed.

A sergeant with Marine Corps Special Operations Command was found guilty of stealing and reselling military property, said MarSOC spokesman Maj. Jeff Landis.

Sgt. Daniel Adam Reich, a former member of 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion, was convicted of four separate counts: Article 80 for attempt to sell military property of a value more than $500; Article 81 for participating in a conspiracy; Article 108 for selling military property of a value more than $500; and Article 134 for wrongfully receiving military property of a value more than $500.

Reich was sentenced to a dishonorable discharge, reduction in grade to private, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, a $2,500 fine and confinement for 40 months.

Reich’s charges are indicative of those involved, officials confirmed.