The Naval Criminal Investigative Service questioned 64 active and former Marines and confiscated $1 million worth of illegally imported goods in connection with an organized crime ring on Tuesday.
The “Perfect Storm” operation began as an undercover investigation into the Marine Corps Base Camp in Pendleton, California, on August 8th, 2012. The operation included agents from the NCIS, the San Diego County Regional Automobile Theft Task Force, Homeland Security and the FBI.
“It’s clear from this operation that an auto thief’s criminal network often goes well beyond stealing cars and trucks,” said Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “The latest RATT operation has shut down crime rings in the county that are also trafficking in guns, stolen military equipment and drugs.”
Investigators confiscated an extensive list of items like cocaine, methamphetamines, ecstasy, and M-40 gases. Additionally, Marines who were involved in the crime ring stole a total of 92 automobiles worth $700,000, participated in insurance fraud and sold high-capacity ammunition magazines.
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“The results of Operation Perfect Storm underscore the power of sharing law enforcement’s resources and expertise in the ongoing battle against thievery,” Derek Benner, San Diego HIS head special agent, said.
Seven Marines, one sailor and seven Marine veterans of all ranks have been charged, from lance corporal to gunnery sergeant. They were arrested after law enforcement officers invited them to an undercover North County storefront to buy vehicles, firearms, narcotics and military grade equipment.
Participants will face charges of insurance fraud, vehicle theft, drug sales and possession of stolen military property. Some could face up to 25 years in prison.