Courts-Martial Set In Operation Punchout Investigation
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AP) _ Courts-martial are scheduled for six men charged in Operation Punchout, a 2 1/2 -year undercover probe culminating with the theft of three F-16 jet engines from the base, the Air Force said Wednesday.
The announcement marked the first word of additional charges in the case since three people were indicted for the engine thefts almost two months ago.
The investigation was expected to result in prosecution of more than 100 people, federal authorities said at first. But on Wednesday the Air Force said there are more than 260 suspects in thefts from military bases in the West and Southwest.
In all, 54 of the suspects worked or formerly worked at Hill, the Air Force said. Three of the suspects were civilians at the time of their alleged crimes.
The Air Force said courts-martial were scheduled for the following men:
- Staff Sgt. Joseph A. Damato, 25, of Sleepy Hollow, Ill., charged with unlawfully selling military property worth $894. His trial is set for Sept. 28.
- Tech. Sgt. David A. Jaeger, 31, of Laona, Wis., charged with selling property worth $577. His trial is Oct. 5.
- Staff Sgt. Timothy M. Eastabrook, 28, of Inez, Texas, charged with selling and stealing military property worth $5,304. His trial is Sept. 21.
- Staff Sgt. James J. Mathews, 30, of Sanford, Fla., charged with selling property worth $131. His trial is Sept. 13.
- Tech. Sgt. Michael J. Tarancon, 33, of Milpitas, Calif., charged with selling property worth $39. His trial is Sept. 15.
- Sgt. Jeffrey A. Moses, 22, of Boss, Mo., charged with selling property worth $575. His trial is Sept. 12.
Hill’s legal office said it expected to conduct at least seven courts- martial in the 29 cases it is handling.
The other 22 cases are considered minor, the Air Force said, and are being disposed of out of court through procedures including commanders’ reprimands. About half of those cases already have been concluded.
By agreement with the Air Force, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Salt Lake City will handle the cases of three Hill civilians and military personnel who were discharged prior to announcement of Operation Punchout.
The U.S. attorney also will handle the cases of five of the 34 servicemen still at Hill.