Twelve Aviano airmen detained after drug sting
December 16, 2003
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — A dozen airmen were detained on drug charges over the weekend following a late-night sting.
No formal charges have been filed against the airmen, said Capt. Eric Elliott, the base’s chief public affairs officer. But those in custody face a variety of charges, including cocaine and marijuana possession and distribution.
More arrests are possible, he said.
A four-month investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations’ Joint Drug Enforcement Team — composed of OSI agents and members of the 31st Security Forces Squadron — came to a head late Saturday with the arrests.
All of those accused were taken into custody on base, though some of them live off base. The names of those detained were not released Monday. Elliott said they range in age from 19 to 30 and in rank from airman to senior airman.
Following the sting operation, Brig. Gen. Mike Worden, 31st Fighter Wing commander, ordered a search of all dorm rooms on base.
Airmen living in the seven dorms — spread out between two areas miles apart — were escorted from their rooms after fire alarms sounded. They then waited in nearby facilities while rooms were searched.
“[Worden] was concerned the dorms were more involved than they turned out to be,” Elliott said of the search, which began late Saturday night and continued into the early morning hours of Sunday. “There was marijuana found in one instance, but they don’t believe it was tied to the case.”
Worden and the legal office will review the cases and proceed accordingly, said Lt. Col. Elizabeth Kelly, wing staff judge advocate. Kelly refused to give a timetable for possible charges, citing an ongoing investigation.
She said her office hadn’t received the allegations yet.
Each case will be reviewed separately and results could range from no charges filed to courts-martial and prison sentences, she said.
“These are accusations,” she said. “All the members are innocent until proven guilty.”
Those accused are currently under the supervision of their first sergeants until decisions on charges are made.