Twenty sailors assigned to Commander, Naval Forces Marianas have been
arrested on drug-related charges since late last year, stemming from months of
investigation by military and federal law enforcement agencies, Navy officials
on Guam announced this week.
Some are in jail, while others found to be in the so-called drug network were
dealt nonjudicial punishment, Navy officials said.
Another awaits sentencing in federal court. All 20 will be discharged from
the military, officials said.
The Navy withheld comment on the drug probe until now to avoid compromising
the investigation, said Lt. Arwen Consaul, a CNFM spokeswoman.
"We wanted to ensure that exposure and eradication of the drug network was
complete," she said.
The sailors — junior personnel, most with less than two years of military
service — worked for Submarine Squadron 15, Navy Security Force and Helicopter
Combat Support Squadron 5.
The drugs involved were methamphetamine, marijuana, oxycodone, Ecstasy,
Klonopin and Xanax, Consaul said. "Law enforcement authorities are continuing
to evaluate the source of the drugs," she added.
The illegal drug activity was uncovered during an investigation by the Naval
Criminal Investigative Service, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S.
Attorney’s Office, launched after several sailors tested positive in a random
drug urinalysis last fall, Consaul said.
Since then, seven sailors have been court-martialed on charges including drug
use, possession and distribution, and ordered to serve from 30 days to 10
months at an unnamed detention facility in the United States, Consaul said.
They are: Seaman Recruit Michael Didonato (use, possession and distribution),
Seaman Recruit Matthew Hoelzle (use), Seaman Recruit Steven Thurman (use and
distribution), Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Tolk (use and unrelated charges),
Petty Officer 3rd Class Bryan Ledbetter (attempted use and conspiracy to
possess), Petty Officer 2nd Class James Fish (possession and distribution) and
Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Letson (distribution and possession).
All received a bad conduct discharge and reduction in rank to E-1, except
Fish. He was reduced to E-3 and is being separated from the military, which is
mandatory for drug offenses, Consaul said. Fish will serve 30 days in jail.
Six of the sailors pleaded guilty in court proceedings that began in
December. Letson was found guilty in a court-martial last Friday. He was
sentenced to 10 months in jail.
Consaul noted the investigation also resulted in a civilian being charged
with drug distribution.
Seaman Shane Powell was indicted by a federal grand jury and pleaded guilty
to charges of conspiring to distribute controlled substances to military
personnel, according to Guam’s Pacific Daily News. He has a June sentencing
date in the U.S. District Court of Guam. He’s currently being detained on the
island, Consaul said.
"Location of the offense played a role in jurisdiction of the case," Consaul
said. Powell faces a maximum 20 years in prison.
Twelve other sailors received nonjudicial punishment for drug-related
offenses, Consaul said, declining to discuss further details.
"The sailors implicated represent a small percentage of sailors serving on
Guam," she said.
There are about 13,000 military members and their families on Guam, according
to the Navy’s Guam Web site.
The lieutenant would not say whether more arrests would be made. "It would be
inappropriate to speculate on how information gained in the investigation might
be used in future cases," she said.
Sailors assigned to CNFM are subject to a monthly drug urinalysis, Consaul
said. A computer program randomly selects names. The tests have "historically
been very accurate in detecting a wide variety of illegal drugs," she said.
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