Pubdate: Mon,  10 Dec 2001
Source: Army Times (US)
Page: 8
Copyright: 2001 Army Times Publishing Company
Author: Jane McHugh


The government made them do it.

That will be the legal defense for 10 soldiers from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., 
charged in a $3 million drug plot.

According to federal court records, the soldiers transported more than 100 
kilos of cocaine and 1,000 kilos of marijuana through Fort Huachuca and a 
border checkpoint to the adjacent city of Sierra Vista and farther-away 
Tucson - mostly in Army-owned vans with U. S. government license plates.

The whole time, they wore their BDUs or Class A uniforms to allay 
suspicions on post and at the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint, the records 
say. Fort Huachuca is headquarters of the Army Intelligence Center, which 
every year schools several thousand soldiers in military intelligence.

The prosecutors say the soldiers - six of whom served in MI units - were 
able to cruise right through the post in their drug-laden vans with no 
questions asked.

For four months this summer and fall, the soldiers, who range in rank from 
private first class to staff sergeant, allegedly hung around with two drug 
dealers who paid them each several thousand dollars in cash for their services.

But as the soldiers discovered Nov. 13 when they were arrested and jailed, 
those supposed dealers were really undercover FBI agents. Even though it's 
an exceptionally large drug scandal involving accusations against soldiers, 
no drugs were seized. The reason for that, the defense lawyers contend, is 
that the soldiers never actually possessed the drugs.

The drugs belonged to the government, they said. "Undercover FBI agents had 
the drugs and gave them to the soldiers and asked the soldiers to carry the 
drugs to different locations in return for some money," David Shannon, a 
public defender representing one of the soldiers, said in a telephone 

Some of the soldiers "only had an income of $1,250 a month," he said. 
Waving lots of cash around, the agents tricked the soldiers into driving 
the drugs, he said.

Shannon and the other defense lawyers are likely to use an entrapment 
defense, arguing the government lured the soldiers into committing the 
crimes. "Everybody's pleading not guilty," Shannon said.

The drugs in question were worth a fortune. The cocaine had a street value 
of about $1.6 million and the marijuana, $1.7 million, said Ed Hall, an FBI 
spokesman in Phoenix.

Charges against the soldiers range from conspiracy to possession with 
intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana to accepting bribes from 
undercover agents. Prison sentences can be up to life. The four charged 
with bribery drove vans with government license plates, while the others 
rode in the vans or in their personal cars, according to the complaint.

The soldiers were busted by the Southern Arizona Corruption Task Force, an 
FBI-led, multi-agency investigative unit that works undercover to nail 
public officials suspected of taking bribes from underworld types who 
smuggle drugs and illegal immigrants up from Mexico, Hall said. In the past 
few years, the task force has won bribery convictions of a Customs Service 
inspector, a Border Patrol dispatcher, a local sheriff's deputy, a local 
police officer, an Arizona corrections officer and a tribal officer from 
the Tohono reservation near Tucson, he said. And now, it seems, the task 
force is going after other folks in uniform soldiers. "During the course of 
the crimes committed by the defendants, they were in their uniforms," 
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Hansen, who is prosecuting the soldiers, 
said at their bond hearing Nov. 20 "The crimes were committed in part 
because of their status as members of the United States military." Public 
defender Shannon agreed - up to a point.

"It would be real easy for men who live on the income that these men live 
on if the government wanted to set something up," Shannon said at the 
hearing. "I want to assure you from personal knowledge that these men make 
close to nothing in terms of what they should make. ... If the government 
had the responsibility of starting this, I personally consider it 
reprehensible." The following details about the soldiers come from the bond 
hearing, where the soldiers and their lawyers were present, as well as the 
criminal complaint Spc. Nkechi D. Anderson, 24, Headquarters Company, 306th 
MI Battalion. Marijuana and bribery charges. The only female in the group, 
she is three months pregnant and married to a sergeant.

Spc. Christopher M. Daniel, 20, Headquarters Company, Army Garrison. 
Cocaine charge. He is an information systems operator who has been in the 
Army for less than two years. He has no prior criminal record, said his 
lawyer, Karen Ottenstein.

Staff Sgt. Rodney Eden, 35, Headquarters Company, 306th MI Battalion. 
Marijuana charge. Eden, a supply sergeant, allegedly sold four 
vehicle-identification decals to the "drug dealers." The decals provided 
unlimited access to Fort Huachuca.

Sgt. Terance D. Glaze, 36, same unit as above. Marijuana and bribery 
charges. Glaze allegedly provided the vans. He has served in the Army for 
13 years and "has not a traffic ticket," said his lawyer, Dan Cooper. He 
has two children and a wife who also is a sergeant.

Spc. Jerrold H. Hayles, 19, Headquarters Company, 111th MI Brigade. Cocaine 
charge. Allegedly was paid $6,800 for transporting cocaine on two 
occasions. Pfc. Marcelus A. Oliver, 21, Headquarters Company, Army 
Garrison. Marijuana, cocaine and bribery charges. The complaint calls 
Oliver a "crew boss," allegedly for his role as an organization man in 
arranging the trips. He obtained fraudulent travel vouchers and received 
nearly $12,000, it says.

Spc. Curtis Smith, 32, Headquarters Company, 306th MI Battalion. Marijuana 
charges. He was due to leave the Army on Nov. 29. Officials aren't saying 
how the 10 soldiers got caught up in the alleged drug-running scheme. But 
at the bond hearing, Hansen said Smith initiated the conspiracy by 
contacting a "source." He also "rounded up the other perpetrators," she 
said. At the bond hearing, she called him a "flight risk" because his wife 
is Mexican and they have a house in Mexico. But Smith's lawyer, Richard 
Lougee, said the matter "was initiated in another manner" and deemed all 
the soldiers "novices." Pfc. Glenn B. Smith II, 20, 18th Military Police 
Detachment. Cocaine charge. "During the course of the investigation, he 
dropped a dirty urine," testing positive for marijuana, and "is no longer a 
military police officer," Hansen said.

Spc. Christopher W. Ward, 23, Headquarters Company, 306th MI Battalion. 
Marijuana and bribery charges. The administrative specialist allegedly sold 
six VIP passes to Fort Huachuca to agents for $1,000.

Pfc. Ronald Wylie, 19, Headquarters Company, Army Garrison. Cocaine charge. 
He allegedly received $6,800 for transporting cocaine. His lawyer, Walter 
Nash, described him in a telephone interview as "an extremely scared young 
man who's never been arrested for anything in his life and doesn't 
understand what's going on." Bond of $50,000 was set on each soldier; at 
press time, none had posted it.
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