San Diego Union Tribune

January 17, 2007

Marine could face prison in theft case

Accused of taking weapons, secrets

STAFF WRITER

COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

A Marine charged with stealing war prizes and classified documents will have his case heard today at Camp Pendleton, not far from where he allegedly stored some of his booty.

Gunnery Sgt. Gary Maziarz is accused of taking computer and camera equipment, secret government information and a variety of weapons, including three pistols that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had apparently received as gifts. Authorities say Maziarz accumulated about 100 Iraqi and U.S. government weapons in all.

 

Advertisement

 

He also is charged with possession of steroids.

Maziarz allegedly kept the stolen items in a Carlsbad apartment and in storage units he rented in Carlsbad and Manassas, Va. Military investigators discovered them while searching the sites late last year.

The developments began in October when a Camp Pendleton colonel said a large amount of U.S. government trophy weapons obtained during the Iraq war had gone missing. An internal investigation eventually focused on Maziarz, who had done intelligence work in Fallujah, Iraq, participated in a National Security Agency program and had access to federal documents categorized as “top secret” or even more sensitive material.

Maziarz is being held at Camp Pendleton. If convicted, he could spend several years in prison and be discharged from the Marine Corps.

Marine Maj. Beth Harvey and civilian attorney David Brahms are defending Maziarz at today's pretrial session, known as an Article 32 hearing.

“In my business, it is truth that counts,” Brahms said. “It's our intention to make the government meet its burden of proof. It's my belief that they will not be able to meet that high burden.”

Camp Pendleton officials, Marine prosecutors and agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service declined to comment on the case.

During their probe, the investigators searched storage units that Maziarz rented in Carlsbad and Manassas. They reported finding gold-colored Russian Dragunov sniper rifles, gold-colored and nickel-plated AK-47s, four Iraqi swords, radios with Arabic writing, foreign military helmets, Iraqi plaques, digital cameras, computers and some 250 pages of surveillance data on a suspected terrorist.

Their haul also included two locked briefcases, a government record book, government maps, ammunition, body armor and military-issued supplies such as canteens and first-aid kits.

Authorities also went through an apartment that Maziarz had rented in Carlsbad. There, they allegedly uncovered steroids and Hussein's three commemorative Colt 1911 .45-caliber pistols.

Records show that Maziarz lived in Centreville and Fairfax County in Virginia from about 2000 to 2003 before moving to La Jolla and then Carlsbad.

Investigators visited Unit 228 of the Manassas storage facility at least three times, said its manager, Ernie Jennison.

Five days before their first search, they brought a German shepherd that “sniffed around” the 10-foot-by-15-foot unit. More than a dozen investigators were on hand for the third visit, Jennison said.

Maziarz stood out because he was the only military member who rented space at the storage facility, Jennison said.

An Article 32 hearing loosely resembles a grand jury proceeding. Prosecutors and defense attorneys present evidence to an investigating officer, who acts as a judge by weighing the arguments and recommending whether the defendant should proceed to court-martial.

A senior Marine officer will then decide whether Maziarz should face court-martial and on what charges.

Rick Rogers: (760) 476-8212; rick.rogers@uniontrib.com

 »Next Story»