- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Authorities in North Carolina have seized $1.4 million worth of narcotics and have convicted more than 80 Marines and sailors for using or distributing designer drugs, officials said yesterday.
It was one of the biggest drug investigations involving the military in recent years. Although narcotics cases in the military are not rare, they usually involve smaller numbers of people. A recent drug scandal at the Air Force Academy, for example, implicated 38 cadets.
Officials said yesterday that a two-year investigation, code-named "Operation Xterminator," was conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service Office at Camp Lejeune, N.C., outside of Jacksonville, along with state and local authorities.
The investigation began in February 2000 after Camp Lejeune officials were alerted that a large number of service members were frequenting clubs in Wilmington, N.C., where designer drugs were prevalent, according to a statement released yesterday by the Camp Lejeune public affairs office.
The drugs involved were ecstasy, cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine, Marine Corps officials said.
The operation included 105 investigations and ended June 19.
Officials said more details would be released at a news conference today at Camp Lejeune.
The investigation led to drug charges against 84 active-duty service members. A Marine Corps official said 99 percent of those charged were convicted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and two cases are still pending.
Of the 84 charged, 61 were accused of distributing drugs and 23 were accused of using them. An additional 99 civilians were charged by civilian authorities.
Officials provided no information on the punishments meted out to the convicted military members.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the maximum penalty for wrongful distribution of drugs is confinement for 15 years, dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances. For wrongful use of drugs, the maximum punishment is confinement for five years, dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
It was not clear yesterday whether the Marine Corps was planning more steps against use of illicit drugs. In December, well after Operation Xterminator was under way, the Marine Corps established a random computerized system to standardize urinalysis throughout the service.


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