October 18, 1997 in Nation/World

Marines Charged In Weapons Theft Not Seen As Ring

Emery P. Dalesio Associated Press

Marines accused of stealing weapons from Camp Lejeune were motivated by money but apparently were not an organized ring dealing with terrorists, authorities said Friday.

‘There are no groups, no connections, no conspiracies that we’ve been able to determine,” said Neill Robins, head of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The five Marines in custody Friday are suspected of hiding explosives from training exercises and seeking out buyers. Federal agents acting as middlemen bought the stolen explosives and then sold them to gun enthusiasts searching for greater firepower.

The Marines appeared to be seeking cash as a reward for taking advantage of sloppy inventory controls, said Col. Joe Yannessa, head of base security.

Fourteen people suspected of trafficking military explosives were arrested Thursday. Six of the suspects were Marines, although one was released and returned to his unit.

The arrests were part of an ongoing 18-month investigation dubbed “Operation Longfuse” into the theft of military weapons, including rocket launchers, machine guns, mines, mortars and grenades.

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