Two Air Force Security Guards Plead Guilty in Engine ‘Sting’ Case
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Two Air Force security guards pleaded guilty to stealing F-16 jet engines and selling them to undercover FBI agents.
Prosecutors said the airmen at Hill Air Force Base agreed to sell Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 engines to FBI agents posing as operators of a mock military surplus store.
The arrests were part of Operation Punchout, a three-year undercover investigation that eventually should result in charges against more than 100 people, according to U.S. Attorney Dee Benson.
The ″sting″ involving the Air Force, Pentagon and FBI, was based out of a mock military surplus store in the town of Roy, 35 miles north of Salt Lake City.
Airman 1st Class Brian David Roth, 22, of Chesterland, Ohio, pleaded guilty Wednesday to five of 22 counts alleging theft of the three engines and other military equipment from the northern Utah base.
Senior Airman Danny Joe Stroud, 24, of Newton, Kan., pleaded guilty to one count of stealing the engines.
The two, who authorities said began selling the stolen goods in 1987, were arrested July 10.
Under the plea arrangement, another count charging Stroud with the theft of $64,000 worth of computers and the remaining 17 charges against Roth are to be dropped when the pair are sentenced Dec. 12.
Stroud’s wife, Kimberly, 22, also is charged with stealing the engines but Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Lubeck said the charge likely would be dropped.
Benson said the men’s sentences would depend in part on the value of the engines, a matter that would be settled at an evidentiary hearing.
The penalty for each of the theft counts is up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Two sergeants have been acquitted of theft charges in courts-martial, four other enlisted men are awaiting trial and prosecutors are deciding whether another man will be tried, Hill spokesman Len Barry said.
Late last month, in another part of Operation Punchout, one Utah man and three Californians were arrested on charges of conspiracy, interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle and aiding and abetting.