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Camp Pendleton Recon Marine under federal investigation for stolen ammo and explosives

U.S. Marines with All Domain Reconnaissance (Recon) Detachment (ADRD), 1st Recon Battalion, 1st Marine Division, cut through a steel door on May 13, 2021 off the coast of Camp Pendleton, California. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Garrett Kiger)

A Marine corporal is under federal investigation amid a probe into several service members for allegedly stealing ammunition and explosives from a Camp Pendleton shooting range, according to the Marine Corps and a Naval Criminal Investigative Service report reviewed by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Seven Marines and one sailor were investigated by NCIS, according to the investigation report. One Marine faces a general court-martial in July and another Marine’s charges were dismissed. All of those involved are attached to the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion at Camp Pendleton.

The case began when one Marine, Cpl. Jason Peters, 22, allegedly tried to sell ammunition to federal agents earlier this year. According to the NCIS investigation, during a search of the Los Angeles apartment of Peters’ girlfriend, Los Angeles Police and Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams found multiple weapons, suspected government ammunition and other unspecified government property.

Among the weapons and items recovered from the apartment were a yellow smoke grenade, an expended diversionary grenade cartridge, a sealed green ammo can with 1,000 rounds of .45 ammo, an AR-15 style rifle, a Sig Sauer pistol and several high-capacity magazines, according to the investigation.

Maj. Kendra Motz, a 1st Marine Division spokesperson, said in an email Peters’ case was being handled outside the military justice system by federal authorities. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles declined to comment.

Peters has not been charged.

Another Marine — Sgt. Gunnar Naughton, who supervised the range from where the ammo was allegedly stolen — faces a general court-martial at Camp Pendleton next month. According to his military charge sheet, once Peters fell under investigation, Naughton attempted to cover-up his involvement by disposing of thousands of rounds of government ammunition in a Fallbrook ravine and telling a Navy petty officer to delete incriminating text messages on WhatsApp and Signal.

Beth Payton-O’Brian, a lawyer representing Staff Sgt. Alexander Czub — a third Marine who came under investigation — said Naughton was living in a trailer on Czub’s Fallbrook property as a tenant. It was on this property that Naughton and another unidentified man dumped the ammunition, O’Brian said, which is why the authorities suspected Czub of being involved and brought obstruction charges against him.

The Marines dismissed those charges against Czub, O’Brian said. Czub denies any involvement in the thefts or attempts to dispose of evidence.

Naughton is charged with dereliction of duty, two counts of obstructing justice, two counts relating to the possession of explosives and one count of improperly disposing military property. Naughton allegedly dumped three grenades and more than 12,000 rounds of ammunition including 5.56 caliber, .45 caliber and 9mm, among others.

San Diego military attorney Philip Stackhouse, who represents Naughton, said in an email that a plea deal is in place but did not respond to follow-up questions about the deal or the case. Naughton’s court-martial trial is set to begin July 2.


© 2021 The San Diego Union-Tribune
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