February 22, 2006

Ring stealing bulletproof vests busted

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Nine people, some of them U.S.
Marines, have been arrested for stealing bulletproof vests
intended for American troops in Iraq and trying to sell them to
international arms merchants, Homeland Security officials said
on Wednesday.

Authorities said they had busted a group that stole
ballistic vests, helmets and protective plates from the Camp
Pendleton Marine base in San Diego, California, and sold them
on the Internet. Several additional suspects are believed to be
serving with the U.S. military in Iraq.

"At a time when our troops in Iraq need all the body armor
they can get, it is extremely troubling to see bulletproof
vests destined for those troops being stolen from our military
bases at home for resale to the public," said Julie Myers,
assistant secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) with the Department of Homeland Security.

"It is even more troubling that individuals would try to
sell these items for profit to people they believed were
international arms dealers," Myers said in a statement.

One San Diego resident, Erika Jardine, was sentenced on
Wednesday to six months in prison by a federal court in
Philadelphia for selling U.S. property.

ICE agents began investigating Jardine in June 2004 after
she was discovered selling 18 stolen ballistic vests on eBay to
agents posing as overseas arms dealers.

Their investigation led them to several U.S. Marines
stationed at Camp Pendleton who had sold equipment to Jardine.
Eight people, some of them Marines and several civilians, have
since been arrested on charges of stealing government property
and other arrests are expected.

ICE agents said they had recovered or purchased items worth
more than $63,000 including tactical vests, protective inserts,
helmets, gas masks, M-16 assault rifle magazines and more than
100,000 Iraqi dinars.