A former Marine and Vietnam veteran was sentenced Monday to six months in prison and fined $5,000 by a judge for selling stolen military gear to an FBI-run surplus store in Oceanside.
Edward Grossenheider, 33, of Phoenix, a former staff sergeant who has since been kicked out of the Marines, was convicted by a jury on 13 counts of unauthorized sale of government property--valued at $100,000--to federal agents posing as employees of Golden State Surplus.
The government contends that up to $5 million in military gear is stolen annually from Camp Pendleton. Much of it eventually winds up in foreign countries, including some hostile to the United States.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Pam Naughton, who urged U.S. District Judge Rudi Brewster to impose a stiffer sentence, said Grossenheider sold twice as much gear to the bogus store as the next-most-frequent supplier, who received a six-year prison term.
But the judge stuck to his original sentence, citing what he said were mitigating factors.
"One thing I can't get out of my mind is that he served in Vietnam under fire. He cheated the government but he also put his life on the line for that government," Brewster said.
"Here's a person who has been deprived of his career, drummed out of the Marine Corps and lost his pension, worth probably more than half a million dollars. That's a mean sentence, one that I didn't impose."
Grossenheider, one of 65 Marines and civilians indicted in the 18-month "Operation Rip-Stop," received $50,000 for gas masks, which cost the government $128 each.
Forty unindicted Marines were court-martialed by the Marine Corps. Their punishments ranged from letters of reprimand to 36 months of hard labor in one case.
"The Marine Corps wanted to try (Grossenheider) themselves, but we felt positive that a federal judge would show by (tough) sentencing that this is just as serious to the government as it is to the military," Naughton said.
"It's not fair to the others to have this man get away with 179 days when they stole half of what he did."