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GINOWAN, Okinawa — The Okinawa Prefectural Police have singled out the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for its continued close cooperation in the investigation of drug cases.

During an annual awards ceremony at the Ginowan Police Station on Tuesday, Chief Kentoku Tome awarded letters of appreciation to 14 groups and 30 individuals. The Okinawa branch of NCIS, headquartered on nearby Camp Foster, was acknowledged for its support in two marijuana cases.

“While maintaining close coordination with the prefectural police, NCIS has largely contributed to solve various criminal cases, including one in which American teenagers possessed marijuana on a military installation and a case involving possession on a military installation by a Japanese man,” a statement from the Ginowan department read.

A criminal investigator for the Ginowan police station said the most recent case involved a Ginowan man who was employed as a bartender at the Butler Officers Club in Plaza Housing.

“A 30-year-old Japanese employee on a military base grew six marijuana plants in his Ginowan home,” the investigator said. “He had been apprehended by NCIS on the base for possessing marijuana. NCIS handed him over to the police.”

The man, an employee of Plenty Staff, an Okinawa company that provides temporary workers for the U.S. military, originally was charged with possessing marijuana with the intent to sell, but there was not enough evidence to prove trafficking, the officer said. He was tried in a Japanese court for manufacturing marijuana and handed a suspended sentence.

Joe Kennedy, a supervisory special agent for NCIS, said the arrest came during a three-week investigation in October. The agents received a tip concerning marijuana being sold out of the club and kept the suspect under surveillance before making an apprehension.

They later joined Okinawa police in searching the man’s Ginowan home near Camp Foster, where they found nine marijuana plants growing in a closet.

“It’s just one of many examples of the close relationship we have with the prefectural police, especially the Ginowan station,” Kennedy said. “It is one of the more aggressive departments on the island.”

The case involving a group of American teens traces back to March 28, when a 20-year-old base employee was stopped at Camp Foster’s Kitamae Gate and a routine random search turned up a small amount of suspected marijuana in his car.

The American civilian was taken into Okinawa police custody the next day, and he gave investigators information that involved 15 people, all younger than 20 and considered juveniles under Japanese law. He told the investigators that he bought the marijuana from an 18-year-old American high school student.

During a search of the student’s off-base home, police discovered videotapes of American and Japanese teens smoking suspected marijuana in public parks and several other juveniles were identified.

One of the teens holds dual citizenship and was tried in a Japanese juvenile court. The others were processed through the Base Inspector’s office.

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