Three Suspects Plead Innocent In Jet Engine Sting
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Three Hill Air Force Base security policemen pleaded innocent Friday to charges stemming from a three-year federal undercover operation into thefts and illegal sales of military property.
The three appeared before U.S. Magistrate Ronald Boyce two days after their arrests by agents of the FBI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
They were among nine people charged in sealed indictments handed up Oct. 13 by a federal grand jury in Ogden.
Another 12 people were charged earlier in a separate sealed indictment handed up by a Salt Lake grand jury in the wake of the undercover investigation called Operation Punchout.
Sgt. Robert Todd Young, 23, of Orting, Wash., was indicted on 12 counts of theft of property ranging from helmets and survival knives to clothing and ammunition.
Boyce released Young, who lives off-base with his wife, on a $2,500 signature bond with a $250 cash deposit and ordered him to return to duty Monday.
Airman 1st Class Robin James Olson, 21, of Missoula, Mont., charged with seven counts of stealing helmets and clothing, was released on a $2,500 bond and restricted to base.
Sgt. Gregory Lewis Hawley, 27, of Columbus, Ohio, is charged with a single count of theft of night observation devices. He was released on his own recognizance and confined to base.
Operation Punchout involved FBI agents posing as operators of a mock military surplus store. The probe netted an assortment of government munitions and equipment, including three F-16 jet engines valued at about $2 million each.
Two airmen at the base pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges they stole the engines and sold them to undercover agents. Under a plea bargain, additional charges will be dropped against Airman 1st Class Brian David Roth, 22, of Chesterland, Ohio, and Senior Airman Danny Joe Stroud, 24, of Newton, Kan., when they are sentenced Dec. 12.
Two other Hill servicemen have been acquitted by military courts of charges they unlawfully sold government property.
Federal and Air Force investigators expect to charge more than 100 people in the probe, according to U.S. Attorney Dee Benson.
In all, about 20 indictments have been handed up, including the nine last week in Ogden. Not all of those charged have been arrested.