Dozens of U.S. Marines and sailors swiped nearly $2 million worth of government goods, according to reports, allegedly selling them to street gangs, foreigners and other big bidders. The stash has included assault rifles, night-vision goggles and $800 flashlights, investigators found as part of a two-year probe. “This is some damn fine police work,” Ed Buice, spokesman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, told The Associated Press on Tuesday, adding that “this is not the first time such crimes have occurred with military members selling government-issued combat gear.” But this latest scheme, which is concentrated at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, highlights a pervasive problem: There were reportedly 66 investigations involving 47 active-duty Marines and sailors and 21 civilians, according to reports. The shady side business came to light after NCIS officials received a tip. “This is guys stealing stuff and selling it at garage sales and out of the back of their cars,” Buice said. And there were also transactions made through popular websites, including eBay and craigslist, according to The Daily News of Jacksonville, N.C., which first reported the story. Among the buyers were reportedly people in China and street gangs in North Carolina. About half of the cases have already been settled in court, with some of the suspects pleading guilty, Buice said. Exactly how many of them admitted to the thefts and for how long they’ve been occuring wasn’t immediately clear. Last week, Capt. Donald Pump Jr., was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and was dismissed from the Marines Corps, The Daily News in North Carolina reported. The newspaper said other military branches are now conducting similar investigations. Given the widespread allegations, observers questioned how the military could allow its equipment to go unaccounted for. “Who’s minding the store?” Philip Cave, a Washington military attorney, told MSNBC. “Somehow these people figured out how to beat the system,” he continued.
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