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Marine accused of stealing 10,000 yen while visiting Okinawa bar during coronavirus restrictions

Japanese police say they arrested a lance corporal based at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, on theft accusations, Sunday, June 7, 2020.

AKIFUMI ISHIKAWA/STARS AND STRIPES

By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND AYA ICHIHASHI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 8, 2020

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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — An Okinawa-based Marine who apparently broke coronavirus liberty restrictions was arrested by Japanese police Sunday after reportedly stealing money from a Naha bar.

Lance Cpl. Michael John Defries II, 20, assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, was taken into custody outside a bar in Naha’s Kumoji neighborhood shortly after police were called at 3:24 a.m., a Naha Police spokesman said Monday.

Defries pocketed a 10,000 yen note — the equivalent of about $91 — that another customer had placed on the bar, the spokesman said. Bar staff reviewed surveillance footage after the money went missing.

Defries admitted to police that he took the money but said he “made a mistake,” the spokesman said. Defries was intoxicated at the time of the incident but his blood alcohol level was not readily available.

Government spokespeople in Japan customarily speak on condition of anonymity as a condition of their employment.

A Marine Forces Japan spokesman referred Stars and Stripes to Marine Corps Installations Pacific officials for comment Monday afternoon. The installations command did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment Monday.

Bars remain off limits for Marines in Japan due to fears over the spread of the coronavirus. The commander of U.S. Forces Japan, Air Force Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, has declared a public health emergency for all U.S. troops in Japan until June 14.

A theft charge for Defries was expected to be referred to the Naha District Public Prosecutor’s Office on Monday afternoon, the police spokesman said. Until then, he was being held at Naha Police Station.

A theft conviction may result in up to 10 years in prison or up to $4,500 in fines, according to Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

burke.matt@stripes.com

Twitter: @MatthewMBurke1

ichihashi.aya@stripes.com

Twitter: @AyaIchihashi

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