Marines Arrested for Selling Body Armor Online

Soldiers Sold Armor Meant for Troops in Iraq on eBay

By LUIS MARTINEZ

Feb. 22, 2006 —

Several Marines from Camp Pendleton have been arrested in San Diego on charges of providing stolen body armor -- intended for troops in Iraq -- that was later sold on the Internet.

U.S. Customs officials teamed with the Navy's Criminal Investigative Service to break the ring.

Nine people have been arrested, including several Marines; additional arrests are expected. The ongoing investigation has identified 12 other Marines and several civilians as suspects. Sources told ABC News that several of those Marines suspected are currently serving duty in Iraq.

Among those arrested was Erika Jardine, who was sentenced today to six months in prison by a federal judge in Philadelphia. Jardine had pleaded guilty in November to one count of arms exportation and another count of selling stolen government property.

EBay Sales Exposed Them

Jardine first drew the attention of investigators in June 2004 after they discovered she had been selling the vests on the Internet auction site eBay. Customs investigators said Jardine sold 18 of the vests to customs agents posing as international arms dealers.

Jardine's arrest led investigators to several U.S. Marines based at Camp Pendleton in California who had previously sold her the vests and their highly protective ceramic inserts.

The vests are the best protection available to U.S. troops in Iraq. The outer tactical vest provides protection from shrapnel, and the ceramic plates, known as small arms protective inserts are what actually protect troops from bullets. A main concern of investigators was to protect the technology involved in making the lifesaving vests.

As a result of the investigation, $63,000 worth of stolen gear has been recovered, including 104 protective ceramic plates, 14 outer tactical vests, seven Kevlar helmets, two gas masks and M-16 ammunition.

This is not the first time that federal officials have broken up the sale of body armor destined for Iraq. In April, 2004 federal prosecutors announced "Operation High Bidder," an undercover investigation targeting eBay sales of body armor.

More than 150 sellers in 33 states were identified, including several current and former military members. Seven people were charged in that operation, including one Marine staff sergeant, who was found to possess 100 pieces of stolen body armor. He was court-martialed and sentenced to 10 years in prison.