Military authorities recovered about $1.8 million in stolen property as part of an ongoing investigation that so far involves almost 70 civilians and active-duty Marines and sailors.
Commanders from Camp Lejeune and the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force are supporting the investigation, a base spokesman said in an email Tuesday. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is leading the investigation, which began more than a year and a half ago.
"This is some damn fine police work and two years of undercover _ $1.8 million is pretty sizable," NCIS spokesman Ed Buice said by phone from Quantico, Va. "That said, this is not the first time such crimes have occurred with military members selling government-issued combat gear."
The 66 NCIS investigations involve 47 active-duty Marines and sailors, along with 21 civilians who sold stolen property, said base spokesman Nat Fahy. About half the cases have been settled in court, Buice said.
"This is guys stealing stuff and selling it at garage sales and out of the back of their cars" and other places, Buice said.
NCIS agents also found property stolen from the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army and other federal agencies, Fahy said. That information was forwarded to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and North Carolina's State Bureau of Investigation, among numerous other federal and local agencies.
Buice and Fahy did not say whether weapons were among the items stolen.
The ongoing investigation was first reported by The Daily News of Jacksonville.
A sergeant with Marine Corps Special Operations Command, which is located at Camp Lejeune, was convicted in March of stealing and reselling property.
Sgt. Daniel Adam Reich was a member of 3rd Marine Special Operations Command when he was convicted and sentenced to 40 months in prison and a dishonorable discharge, said Maj. Jeff Landis, a spokesman for the command.
Landis wouldn't say what type of property Reich stole but did say that weapons were not involved. All of the property was recovered, he said.
The thefts came to light after NCIS received tips, Buice said. Crime analysts did research that suggested more property was being stolen, he said, leading to the investigation.
Jelinek reported from Washington, D.C.
Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc