Local News

Henderson man suspected in military equipment theft

Posted March 18, 2011 12:47 p.m. EDT
Updated March 18, 2011 6:24 p.m. EDT

— Military investigators this week searched the home of a Henderson man who they believe stole weapons and other items on loan to North Carolina law enforcement agencies and sold some of the equipment on eBay.

Robert Brian Minish, 55, was the firearms manager at North Carolina Law Enforcement Support Services until last June, according to a search warrant application by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. NCLESS coordinates transfers of surplus Department of Defense property, including weapons and vehicles, to law enforcement agencies statewide.

No charges have been filed against Minish, whom NCIS agents began investigating last May after a random audit found numerous firearms provided to NCLESS were missing, according to federal court documents. Minish provided inconsistent statements to investigators before finally producing some of the weapons, documents state.

Acting on a tip from a former NCLESS employee, investigators found that Minish had sold numerous items on eBay, including night vision equipment, gun sights and parts for trench guns, since 2005, according to court documents. Although Minish told investigators that he had bought the items on eBay or at flea markets and was simply reselling them at higher prices, investigators found the serial numbers of the items matched those that the military had loaned to NCLESS, documents state.

Investigators also determined that Minish stored numerous military items at the Kerr Lake Volunteer Fire Department, where he served as president. Vance County took control of the fire department last July, and the county fire marshal said the Kerr Lake fire station looked like the junkyard in the 1970s television series "Sanford and Son," court documents state.

Firefighters told investigators that they recalled seeing Minish use state-owned trucks to haul items from Raleigh to the Kerr Lake fire station. They said Minish told them he had bought the items from NCLESS, and he sold some to members of the department. NCIS agents searched the firehouse in September and found several items, including a tool chest from Camp Lejeune, that matched items loaned to NCLESS, according to court documents.

Investigators conducted a full audit of military firearms loaned to North Carolina law enforcement agencies and found that 30 were missing, including M14 and M16 assault rifles, court documents state. In addition to the weapons, investigators said they traced $54,700 in missing military equipment to Minish.

During a Monday evening search of Minish's house on Mabry Mill Road, NCIS agents seized weapons parts, ammunition, detonation cords, storage bins, tax records, laptop computers, computer hard drives and other items, according to a search warrant.

Minish, who is on leave as a volunteer firefighter with Vance County, couldn't be reached Friday for comment. Family members declined to comment.

Both state and federal investigators also declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.