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Phantom Blooper
04-07-05, 12:49 AM
April 07,2005
ROSELEE PAPANDREA
DAILY NEWS STAFF


After a nine-month investigation, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has uncovered information regarding the alleged theft and sale of government property that the agency expects may lead to the arrest of 88 people.

A total of 58 Marines, two sailors and 28 civilians are considered suspects. Arrests will be made by both NCIS and the U.S. Attorney's office. None of the military personnel identified as suspects are officers, said 1st Lt. Clark Carpenter, spokesman for Camp Lejeune.

The NCIS investigation began in July 2004.

"A citizen witnessed suspected criminal activity involving a Camp Lejeune Marine and a local business person," Carpenter said. "It was reported to the NCIS office at Camp Lejeune."

NCIS launched an investigation and discovered multiple cases of theft of government property and the illegal sale of that same property. The property recovered so far is valued at $213,835, according to a press release furnished by Camp Lejeune's public affairs.

"Indications right now are that this was not a ring," Carpenter said. "It was Marines acting individually for the most part."

The stolen items include individual-issue combat clothing, video cameras, speakers, televisions, handheld Motorola radios and four training grenades that don't contain explosives, although they can be dangerous if used improperly, Carpenter said.

"When you throw them, they make a loud bang to simulate what would happen when a live grenade goes off," Carpenter said. "? Obviously, we are taking this seriously. If some of this equipment were to fall into the hands of someone who didn't know how to use it, it could be dangerous."

Details regarding where the property was stolen from couldn't be released. Some items were taken in this country and some were taken overseas, Carpenter said.

The names of businesses where property was purchased weren't released, because it is still under investigation. However, suspects include people who both sold and bought the equipment, Carpenter said.

The Marine Corps is cooperating with the NCIS.

"We take this very seriously," Carpenter said. "Any time the Marines are not upholding the standards we expect of them, we want to get to the bottom of it. Any time we discover behavior that could affect the community, we take it seriously. We want to ensure members of the community that we are handling this professionally and quickly."

When Marines are issued gear, the information is entered into a computer database. When the gear is returned, each piece of equipment is checked off. If any equipment is missing, the Marine is responsible for reimbursing the federal government, Carpenter said.

"The system for accountability is strong," Carpenter said.

Despite the strength of the system in place, Marine Corps officials will examine its policies and procedures. They also plan to stress the stringent control of government property at all levels, said Maj. Neil Murphy Jr., a spokesman for Camp Lejeune.

"These types of activities violate our core values, and the Marine Corps refuses to tolerate stealing," Murphy said. "In addition to investigating and adjudicating these cases, we will examine our property control measures and accountability practices at the small unit level throughout all the commands at Camp Lejeune."

Anyone with information regarding stolen ordnance or government property can contact the duty agent at NCIS at 451-8071 or Crime Stoppers at 938-3273. Callers do not have to reveal their identity.


Contact staff writer Roselee Papandrea at rpapandrea@freedomenc.com or at 353-1171, Ext. 238.