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Four Coast Guardsmen Charged With Stashing Floating Cocaine

February 7, 1991

MIAMI (AP) _ Four Coast Guardsmen sent to recover floating duffel bags stuffed with cocaine were indicted Thursday for allegedly stealing part of the haul.

All four, still on active duty, were ordered Thursday to return to Miami to surrender to federal authorities, Coast Guard Capt. Paul Prokop said.

They were working at the Miami Beach Coast Guard station in 1986 when the incident occurred, the indictment said. All were later transferred to other bases.

Investigators were tight-lipped about many details of the case. They refused to say if the men were connected with 11 other Florida-based Coast Guardsmen indicted in two other cases since 1988, except to say they may have known each other.

The incident that led to their indictment occurred Aug. 6, 1986, when a fisherman reported finding a duffel bag off Boca Chita Key at the northern end of the island chain just off Miami.

The four guardsmen were sent out in a 19-foot launch to investigate, said U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen.

″There was so much cocaine floating in the water that the 19-foot boat had to call for the assistance of a 41-foot Coast Guard boat,″ Lehtinen said.

The total take was more than 1,000 pounds. The source of the shipment never was determined, he said.

″As the 19-foot boat was heading back, they conspired and agreed to steal some of that cocaine,″ Lehtinen said. Before returning to the base the four allegedly stashed the four kilos, or nearly nine pounds, of cocaine along a mangrove-lined stretch of coastline.

Lehtinen refused to say if the cocaine was later sold or if the men were working with outside traffickers. He also would not comment on what led to the investigation, which began in 1987.

The four were identified as James B. Kaicher, 32, now stationed in the Marine Safety Office in Long Beach, Calif.; Jeffrey L. Fredrickson, 34, of the Fifth District Headquarters at Portsmouth, Va.; Donald Franklin, 34, of the Marine Safety Office in Tampa, and Mark D. Degroot, 36, serving aboard the cutter Citrus in Coos Bay, Ore.

If convicted, the men face expulsion from the Coast Guard and a maximum of 20 years in prison on two counts of conspiring to possess and possessing cocaine with intent to distribute.

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