Camp Pendleton is a Marine Corps training base located about 35 miles north of San Diego on the shores or the Pacific Ocean. It is located in a community called Oceanside, and is an important component in the community of north county San Diego. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has discovered a group of 64 individuals, including active duty and non-active duty Marines who were involved in a million dollar drug ring.
The “Perfect Storm” operation began in August 2012, and was jointly operated by agents from the NCIS, the San Diego County Regional Automobile Theft Task Force, Homeland Security and the FBI.
“It’s clear from this operation that an auto thief’s criminal network often goes well beyond stealing cars and trucks,” said Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “The latest RATT operation has shut down crime rings in the county that are also trafficking in guns, stolen military equipment and drugs.”
Authorities claim they made the largest dent in an organized crime network in three years. “Through solid investigative work and collaboration this task force effectively shut down a large organized crime network committing numerous felonies,” said Dave Jones, the state’s insurance commissioner.
Seven active-duty Marines, one Navy sailor, and seven former Marines were arrested as part of the bust, according to the district attorney. Among the items stolen from the base and sold for profit are Kevlar helmets, high-capacity magazines, night-vision goggles, gas masks, and bullet-proof vests.
Also uncovered were 92 stolen vehicles, methamphetamines and ecstasy, and 10,000 rounds of ammunition and high capacity magazines. The value of the stolen goods was estimated at $1 million, according to authorities.
A ‘sting’ operation assisted in several arrests. Suspects were invited to an undercover storefront where they allegedly sold detectives stolen vehicles, firearms, narcotics and military grade equipment. The activity was videotaped.
Among other items confiscated were cocaine, methamphetamines, ecstasy, and M-40 gases. Additionally, the value of the stolen automobiles was estimated at a worth of $700,000. They also participated in insurance fraud and sold high-capacity ammunition magazines.
“The results of Operation Perfect Storm underscore the power of sharing law enforcement’s resources and expertise in the ongoing battle against thievery,” Derek Benner, San Diego HIS head special agent, said.
Seven Marines, one sailor and seven Marine veterans of all ranks have been charged, from lance corporal to gunnery sergeant.
Participants will face charges of insurance fraud, vehicle theft, drug sales and possession of stolen military property. Some could face up to 25 years in prison.
Nineteen of the defendants faced arraignment in San Diego Superior Court Thursday, while 31 others that were arrested posted bond, and will return for arraignments at a later date. Police are still seeking 14 of those indicted.
This million dollar drug ring involving Marines and others, was thwarted by authorities in a joint investigative effort.