Purser gets 2 years for stealing $350,000 from ship safe

By SCOTT DAUGHERTY | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: July 14, 2014

NORFOLK, Va. — A former Military Sealift Command purser was sentenced Monday to two years in federal prison for stealing more than $350,000 from a ship's safe.

Ismael "Mike" Estrada, 66, of Norfolk, was convicted in March of one count of embezzlement following a four-day jury trial in U.S. District Court.

According to court testimony, Estrada served as a civilian purser on the Arctic, a supply ship. Part of his job was to handle money onboard the vessel.

The jury found Estrada, a retired senior chief petty officer in the Navy, had taken more than half of the Arctic's $691,000 petty cash supply from a safe on board the vessel. The theft was discovered when Estrada was transferred to another Sealift Command ship. Officials found that bundles of money that should have been all $100 bills had been swapped out for smaller denominations

Estrada maintained his innocence at trial. His attorney argued others, including the ship's captain, had access to the safe.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence between 3 years and 5 months and 4 years and 3 months. Prosecutors argued for Estrada to receive a sentence within the guidelines, noting the scope of the theft scheme.

James Theuer, Estrada's attorney, asked U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr. for two years. He noted that his client served the United States for more than 40 years -- including 26 years with the Navy and more than 14 with Sealift Command.

The USNS Arctic is one of the Navy Military Sealift Command's largest combat logistics ships, according to the MSC's website.


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