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FBI Arrests Seven in Military Base Undercover Operation

March 29, 1991

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Six civilian workers at Kelly Air Force Base and a subcontractor are charged with participating in a loosely knit ring that fenced stolen government property to undercover agents.

The property, including jet engine parts, tools, computer and electrical equipment and telephones, was valued at more than $50,000, but sold at 5 cents on the dollar, authorities said.

The seven men were arrested Thursday.

FBI agent-in-charge Mike Wilson said an 18-month sting used a bogus company called Airprop Associates to ferret out the loosely knit ring.

He called the suspects independent operators who knew one another and occasionally did business together, adding, ″They were greedy enough to make use of our bogus operation. We were a conduit for stolen property.″

Air Force Col. Robert Lukens said none of the thefts posed a threat to national security.

The federal indictment charged maintenance supervisor Joe Chapa, 42, with conspiracy and theft; civil engineering planner Larry Eberwein, 51, with theft; sheet metal worker Richard Eldridge, 44, with conspiracy and theft; maintenance worker Arthur Espinoza, 36, with theft; sheet metal mechanic Federico Pacheco, 41, with conspiracy; and supply clerk Henry Sotello, 39, with conspiracy and theft.

Electrical subcontractor Carl Purser, 53, was charged with conspiracy.

All were arraigned before a federal magistrate and released on personal recognizance.

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