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Cohen Orders Security Review

By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 1997 – Defense Secretary William Cohen has ordered a 30-day review of security and accountability procedures for small arms and ammunitions.

Cohen's order followed the FBI's arrest Thursday of six Marines for allegedly stealing military M-16 rifles, machine guns, explosives and hand grenades. The arrests were part of Operation Longfuse, a joint federal sting operation centered at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Seven North Carolina civilians also were arrested.

Cohen said he ordered the review because "it is imperative that we be confident we have measures in place to ensure that military arms and munitions are tightly controlled and safeguarded."

Lejeune officials said the Marines were allegedly involved in the theft, purchase and sale of stolen and illegal weapons, explosives and military equipment.Information provided by the Marine Corps as part of the sting focused on the possibility munitions were being stolen from military reservations throughout North Carolina."

Cohen stressed Thursday the military already has strong security measures, but said no security system is 100 percent foolproof. "We'll await disclosure of the details involving this particular sting operation to determine what measures, if any, need to be taken to prevent this type of activity from taking place in the future," he said.

The Marines' arrest occurred as part of larger investigation, which includes theft of military ordnance throughout the Southeast, according to William Perry, FBI agent in charge of the bureau's office in Charlotte, N.C. Perry said the investigation also targeted the illegal manufacture and distribution of automatic weapons and explosives.

Camp Lejeune officials have identified the arrested Marines as Capt. Thomas Crawford from the Naval-Marine Corps Reserve Base in Worcester, Mass.; SSgt. Timothy Witham of the Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C.; and Master Gunnery Sgt. Alfred Gerich, Gunnery Sgt. James Sanders, Sgt. Ronald Moerbe and Sgt. Darius Hill, all of Camp Lejeune.

Crawford was arrested after investigators seized what appeared to be crates of ammunitions from his house in Millis, Mass. At least 10 boxes included military markings.

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