Local News

Local Marines Implicated in Stolen Weapons Ring

Posted October 16, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Raids across the country have turned up stolen military weapons and explosives. FBI agents have arrested six Marines from Camp Lejeune and seven other people from North Carolina.

FBI and ATF agents say the arrests took place in all three judicial districts of North Carolina, including at least one man in our area identified as Harold Gustav Coach of Raeford North Carolina. Federal agents also raided the Massachusetts home of a Marine recently transferred from Camp Lejeune.

The FBI, ATF and Naval Criminal Investigators have charged the Marines and civilians with trafficking in stolen weapons.

"You have firearms and ammunition such as an M79 grenade launcher," explains ATF agent, Mark Logan, "and the Chinese manufactured semi-automatic version of the AK-47 converted to a fully-automatic machine gun."

Some North Carolina military installations lead the nation in reports of lost and stolen weapons. Last year WRAL reported a computer analysis of five years worth of military records showed 37 instances of weapons lost or stolen at Fort Bragg, compared with 28 at Camp Pendleton, 25 at Camp Lejeune, 25 at Fort Hood and 23 at Fort Campbell.

General Accounting Office investigators found it easy to find military weapons at gun shows which should be available "only in the military supply system."

A former weapons dealer convicted of dealing in stolen weapons told WRAL it was common to see military weapons at gun shows.

"They fall in the same packaging the military uses," says Greg Preuss. "It was made for them, given away, shipped back here and used for commercial sales."

The military says it takes precautions to avoid theft by keeping track of empty cases. But the General Accounting Office report concluded that frequently the military "did not know (when) C-4 had been lost or stolen."

A Fort Bragg spokesman says there is no indication that any of the weapons seized in today's raid came from Fort Bragg. Federal Agents have dubbed this case "Operation Long Fuse" and while they say the undercover part of the investigation is over, they say the operation will continue.