Okinawa-based Marines won’t serve time after using fake credit card at Tokyo department store
By HANA KUSUMOTO AND LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 2, 2018
TOKYO, Japan — Three Okinawa-based Marines have been spared prison time after being convicted of credit card fraud and other charges by a Japanese court.
Sgt. Darren Murray, 23; Cpl. Gregory Singleton, 25; and Cpl. Benjamin Strickland Jr., 23, all assigned to the III Marine Expeditionary Force, were accused of using a fake credit card to buy items from a Tokyo department store on Oct. 29, 2017.
Tokyo District Court judges gave the trio suspended sentences of two and a half years imprisonment with hard labor after convicting them on charges that included unauthorized creation of electromagnetic records, fraud and attempted fraud. They had 14 days from sentencing to appeal to the Tokyo High Court.
Strickland stole credit card information from another servicemember on Okinawa and sent it to Singleton and Murray, who created the fake credit card and went shopping at a department store in Tokyo.
The pair bought four T-shirts and a backpack worth $891. When they tried to buy a $430 belt, the store clerk noticed that the numbers in the payment system didn’t match those on the card and contacted police.
Singleton and Murray were questioned and arrested on Nov. 28. Strickland was arrested later once investigators discovered his role in the plot.
All three Marines pleaded guilty during separate trials held recently by two judges.
Singleton testified he needed the money to pay off debts before getting out of the service.
Murray told the court he joined the others to “see what it was all about.” He said his role was to accompany Singleton and that he was going to keep and use the stolen items.
“It is a crime that shakes the social trust of credit cards,” Judge Kazuo Sasaki, who presided over the trials for Singleton and Strickland, said after delivering Singleton’s sentence on Feb. 21.
The judge called the crime “habitual,” saying the trio had been using fake credit cards to purchase brand-name goods since July.
Sasaki suspended Singleton and Strickland’s sentences, he said, because they had paid damages and shown remorse. He also considered the fact that they’d be punished by the Marine Corps and would likely be sent back to the United States.
Judge Shinichiro Nakajima, who tried Murray, didn’t state his reasoning for delivering a guilty verdict and suspended sentence on Wednesday.
“I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done,” Murray said in his final statement before the court. “I hope you and your country can forgive me for what I’ve done.”
Singleton and Strickland also apologized in court.
“I hope your opinion has not changed about the United States military and other Marines,” Singleton said at his trial last month.
“This entire process has been the worst thing in my life,” Strickland told the court shortly before his sentence was read on Friday.