American troops sold $2 million worth of weapons and combat gear, including assault rifles and night vision goggles to street gangs and to foreign countries, including China, in a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy uncovered by a Navy probe, according to military officials.
A two-year undercover investigation has implicated more than 60 individuals, an official with the Navy Criminal Navy Investigative Service (NCIS) told The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C. Many of those involved were stationed at Camp Lejeune, a sprawling coastal Marine Corps installation that is home to special operations and expeditionary forces.
Some of the equipment was sold over eBay and Craigslist, though weapons and ammunition were also sold at yard sales and in secretive face-to-face meetings, according to the paper.
The Navy probe eventually spilled into other military branches, including the Army and Air Force.
In all, $1.8 million worth of equipment has been recovered as a result of the investigation. Officials said that in addition to the assault rifles and night vision goggles, $800 flashlights were recovered as a result of the probe.
Panetta: Misconduct threatens war effort
“We’re talking about sophisticated, high-tech flashlights that cost the government up to $800 per unit. The temptation and ease with which to steal and sell them, for some, is irresistible,” an unnamed military official told Stars & Stripes, which confirmed the report.
So far, 47 service members and 21 civilians have been charged. About half of those have been to trial, with many pleading guilty to the offenses, Ed Buice, an NCIS spokesman, told The Daily News.
Two Marines have been convicted in the case, The Daily News reported.
Sgt. Daniel Adam Reich was convicted Monday of selling and attempting to sell military property as well as conspiracy. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison and given a dishonorable discharge.
Capt. Donald E. Pump Jr. last week was convicted of attempting to sell military property and conspiracy. He was dismissed from the Marine Corps and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Though cases of what is sometimes called "mailing the war home" aren't unusual, the scope of the investigation and the number of people allegedly involved points to a deeper problem of checks and balances in how combat equipment is accounted for, Philip Cave, a Washington military attorney, told msnbc.com.
"Who's minding the store? Where's the accountability? Where's the supervision and leadership?” Cave said. “Somehow these people figured out how to beat the system."