National News

Jury deliberating in military equipment theft case

Posted August 31

— A federal jury is deliberating the fate of a Tennessee man accused of conspiring with soldiers to steal sensitive military equipment and selling it to foreign buyers.

The equipment stolen from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, included weapon parts, body armor, helmets, gun sights and more.

John Roberts, of Clarksville, is charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to steal and sell government property and violating the Arms Export Control Act. Six soldiers and his civilian business partner made plea deals in exchange for their testimony. The 12-person jury started deliberations Thursday morning.

Roberts faces up to five years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and up to 20 years for each count of wire fraud and violating the Arms Export Control Act, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Roberts, 27, testified that he did not know the soldiers were bringing him stolen equipment. He also said the military items he bought and sold were commonly found in surplus stores, gun stores and on eBay.

But prosecutors said Roberts knowingly made hundreds of thousands of dollars supplying a vast black market for years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Jaworski said Roberts' texts with the soldiers and other civilians selling the equipment proves Roberts led the conspiracy.

"This case is about the defendant's greed and piles of stolen military equipment," Jaworski told jurors Thursday in closing arguments.

Roberts' defense attorney did not give closing arguments.

A former business partner, Cory Wilson, testified that he and Roberts would find soldiers selling military items through classified ads or on Facebook, and then ask them for more expensive and harder-to-find items. Wilson pleaded guilty to buying and selling stolen military equipment, wire fraud and violating the Arms Export Control Act.

The soldiers they targeted were often young and broke or needed money for drugs, Wilson said.

Wilson said Roberts set up multiple accounts to sell the equipment on eBay. He said they removed packaging that identified it as government property and used fake descriptions on shipping labels to avoid suspicion.

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