Joint case yields historic DoD single drug seizure

  • Published
  • By SA Andrew Dodge
  • OSI Detachment 803

Case Initiation:

In 2003, the Drug Enforcement Administration in Jacksonville, Fla., notified Office of Special Investigations Detachment 311, Moody Air Force Base, Ga., an undercover informant had purchased Ecstasy pills from a male and his girlfriend in Jacksonville. DEA agents conducted queries of the drug dealer’s license plate and obtained a positive identification of the vehicle owner, who they identified as an active-duty Airman stationed at Moody AFB.

Case Facts:

OSI conducted database checks and determined the male subject was an active-duty senior airman assigned to the 347th Aerospace Maintenance Squadron as a helicopter crew chief. OSI learned the subject was previously stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and had recently completed a permanent change of station to Moody. OSI also determined the subject made two trips back to Germany within six months of his PCS. Additionally, a package addressed to him and containing an ounce of powdered cocaine, had been intercepted by customs at the Miami International Airport.

Agents were unsure if the subject was working alone or in a group and became concerned about potential international smuggling of narcotics. OSI and DEA outlined a joint operations plan and determined OSI would be the lead on all investigations in Georgia while DEA would conduct the pre-planned drug purchases in Jacksonville, Fla.

The subject completed a controlled Ecstasy sale to a DEA informant while under joint DEA and OSI surveillance, which yielded crucial information to the investigation. That information led to the service of a subpoena at a bank in Valdosta, Ga., for the contents of a safety deposit box.  OSI learned the subject accessed the safety deposit box within 24 hours of each controlled purchase.

A controlled purchase for 1,000 Ecstasy pills was completed in Jacksonville, during which the subject’s girlfriend sold the pills to the DEA informant and was immediately arrested. The subject, who dropped off his girlfriend at the transaction site, was followed to an apartment where he was arrested after completion of the sale. OSI agents interrogated the subject who denied the allegations, until OSI agents presented evidence documenting their extensive knowledge of the facts. The subject then confessed to the sale of Ecstasy and consented to a search of his residence where they uncovered evidence that indicated the subject was preparing to begin manufacturing and selling methamphetamine. OSI agents also interrogated the subject’s girlfriend, who provided evidence against the subject and agreed to work with the prosecution.

Case Outcome:

Detailed searches of the subject’s residence, the bank safety deposit box and the subject’s financial resources, yielded the seizure of 16,000 Ecstasy pills, $50,000 in cash, an ounce of methamphetamine, an assault rifle, three vehicles, one motorcycle and the identification of additional money in various investment accounts for asset forfeiture.

During a pre-trial agreement, the subject confessed to OSI and DEA agents that he smuggled 20,000 Ecstasy pills in his household goods from Germany. The subject admitted his motivation was purely financial and he had seen an opportunity to make a large sum of money.

The subject was tried in military court and received a sentence of 10 years confinement, demotion to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a dishonorable discharge. The subject’s girlfriend received a sentence of three years confinement in the federal prison system.

Lessons Learned:

Many of the agents who participated in this case were new. Some had only been at their first detachment for less than one month. This validated the training provided to new agents and spoke to the importance of quality detachment leadership and good liaison relationships with other partner federal law enforcement agencies.

According to an Air Force article published March 26, 2004, this investigation resulted in the largest single narcotics seizure in Department of Defense history up until then.