A U.S. soldier and six South Korean civilians are accused of conspiring in a trafficking scheme after allegedly stealing three Humvees from a U.S. base in South Korea.
Stars & Stripes reports the thieves were busted after trying to hock the stolen vehicles in the open market.
The soldier, identified only as a 47-year-old Korean-American man, allegedly plotted with the others to arrange for three Humvees to be stolen from the base in June and September of last year, according to Stars & Stripes.
According to Stars & Stripes, the thieves camouflaging the vehicles to appear as unused items, said Kim Dong Hwan, chief detective of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s international crime investigation unit.
“The soldier insists he was not trying to steal the vehicles with the rest of the guys,” Kim tells Stars & Stripes. “The Koreans kept denying what they did at first, but they’ve been saying lately they attempted to sell the Humvees.”
The chief detective tells Stars & Stripes it’s the first time he’s uncovered a stolen vehicle trafficking ring.
The suspects — who also include a civilian contractor working on the base, three junk dealers, a film-prop maker and an intermediary — have been booked without detention. However the suspects remain under suspicion of receiving stolen goods, larceny or trespassing on military facilities but have not yet been charged, according to Stars & Stripes.
Saying police are turning the case over to prosecutors, Kim declined to identify the suspects or to say which base is home to the stolen goods, according to Stars & Stripes.
U.S. Forces Korea referred Stars & Stripes’ queries to the Army Criminal Investigation Command, which confirmed an investigation was underway.
“I can confirm that we have an ongoing criminal investigation,” CID spokesman Chris Grey said via e-mail to Stars & Stripes. “We are not releasing any further information at this time to protect the integrity of the investigative process.”
One of the Humvees was sold to a film-prop maker for nearly $10,000, but police retrieved the vehicle from him later, Kim tells Stars & Stripes. Police caught the remaining suspects when they tried to sell the other two Humvees to buyers in Sri Lanka, Cambodia or Mongolia.
Kim tells Stars & Stripes the Humvees were recovered from one of the junk dealer’s lots.
U.S. bases in South Korea are tightly controlled and access is only granted to authorized personnel — making the thefts even more suspicious.
Stars & Stripes reports police believe the U.S. soldier and the Korean civilian employee told colleagues the Humvees were unused items being sent to the Defense Logistics Agency but instead shipped the vehicles to the South Korean suspects.
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