Marines at a Southern California military base are being investigated for possible ties to missing explosives and ammunition.
A sergeant at Camp Pendleton is in custody and facing charges, and another service member is awaiting a federal hearing in connection to the case, said 2nd Lt. Kyle McGuire, a spokesman for 1st Marine Division. Few details have been made public about the investigation, which McGuire said is unrelated to 10 pounds of C-4 explosives that disappeared from another California base — Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms — last month.
Sgt. Gunnar Naughton, with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, currently is confined to the brig, McGuire said. Naughton faced an Article 32 fact-finding hearing on March 19 and has been charged with larceny and military property-related offenses, he added.
Charges also have been preferred against a second member of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, but an Article 32 hearing has not yet been scheduled. The Marine Corps declined to provide a list of the charges or any personal information prior to the hearing.
“Naval Criminal Investigative Service is continuing their investigation into this matter, and I’m therefore unable to provide additional information,” McGuire said.
ABC 10News in San Diego, citing an unnamed source, reported that at least five reconnaissance Marines at Camp Pendleton are under investigation for possible ties to the explosives, and thousands of rounds of military-grade ammunition were found to be missing at their base. One Marine, the outlet reported, allegedly tried to sell the ammo online, but was caught “in a sting operation that was set up by federal agents.”
A spokesman at NCIS declined to provide any details about the missing materials or reported sting operation.
“Out of respect for the investigative process, NCIS does not comment on ongoing investigations,” Jeff Houston said.
Bethany Payton-O’Brien, a San Diego-based attorney, told ABC 10News she’s representing a staff sergeant who let another Marine rent space on his land for a trailer. The location was later raided, she told the station.
Payton-O’Brien told Military.com her client, Staff Sgt. Alexander Czub, was released from the brig on March 4 after serving a month in pretrial confinement. Czub has not been charged with any offenses relating to the missing ammunition or explosives at Camp Pendleton, she added.
“My client is not connected with the alleged conspiracy involving … Naughton or the attempted selling of government ammunition by [another Marine],” she said. “Based on the investigation provided to us so far by the government, there appears to be no connection between the 29 Palms case and Camp Pendleton Marines. The government has still not provided us with all evidence in this case despite numerous requests.”
McGuire said no other hearing or trial dates have been set in connection to the case. The preliminary hearing officer for Naughton’s Article 32 must review his case and make a recommendation to the convening authority regarding the charges. The convening authority on the case, or the officer overseeing the prosecutions, is Maj. Gen. Roger Turner Jr., 1st Marine Division’s commanding general.
Those steps will determine whether the case proceeds to court-martial.
“It is not uncommon for charges to change between an Article 32 hearing and subsequent court-martial,” McGuire added.
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