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3rd Marine Accused of Espionage : Charges Involve Consulate Duty in Leningrad in '81-82

April 09, 1987|ROBERT L. JACKSON and MARIA L. LA GANGA | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — A third Marine guard has been arrested on suspicion of espionage as a result of the widening investigation stemming from security breaches at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Defense Department officials said Wednesday.

Sgt. John Joseph Weirick, 26, has been accused of spying while assigned to guard duty at the American consulate in Leningrad in 1981 and 1982, Pentagon spokesman Robert Sims said. Weirick, who also had worked briefly as a sentry at U.S. embassies in Moscow and Rome, was arrested at the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro and confined to the brig at Camp Pendleton.

Two Others Charged

His suspected spying occurred three years before that of Sgt. Clayton J. Lonetree and Cpl. Arnold Bracy, two other Marine guards charged with espionage, suggesting that Marine security breaches have been continuing far longer than originally believed, officials said.

Sims, who refused to answer questions about how the small Marine detachment at Leningrad operated, said Weirick's arrest stems from a "very thorough investigation" of the Lonetree-Bracy case that is leading investigators to question former as well as current embassy guards.

Secretary of State George P. Shultz told reporters Wednesday that communications at the Leningrad consulate may have been compromised in a manner similar to the breach of security in Moscow, adding that all of the equipment at the consulate will be replaced on a "worst-case assumption."

Supervisor Accused

Another Marine, Staff Sgt. Robert S. Stufflebeam, a former Moscow guard supervisor, was formally charged Wednesday with improperly associating with Soviet women on three occasions in 1985 but has not been charged with espionage.

Stufflebeam, 24, was freed from the brig Tuesday by a military magistrate who ruled that he was unlikely to flee or commit any violent acts, but he was confined to the Marine base at Quantico, Va.

Weirick probably will be transferred soon to the brig at Quantico, Sims said, though he refused to specify what acts of espionage the sergeant is suspected of committing until formal charges are filed. But Sims said that Weirick apparently engaged in spying after he had "unreported contacts with Soviet citizens, including women."

Lonetree, 25, and Bracy, 21, have been charged with espionage and conspiracy for allegedly allowing Soviet agents to enter sensitive areas of the American Embassy in Moscow in 1985 and 1986. They did so after becoming sexually involved with Soviet women who were working for the KGB, officials have said.

Sims told reporters that Weirick's conduct, while unconnected with that of Lonetree and Bracy, indicates "a similarity of Soviet methods."

Unlike Lonetree and Bracy, who are single, Weirick is married. His wife of 1 1/2 years, Betty, is in a Santa Ana hospital expecting the couple's first child.

Weirick, originally of Eureka, Calif., was assigned to his first embassy guard post in Moscow on Oct. 22, 1981, and was transferred the next month to Leningrad, the Soviet Union's second-largest city. He served there for 13 months as a member of a five-man guard detachment before being reassigned to the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

Now a Mechanic

A Marine since 1978, Weirick has been assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at El Toro as a helicopter mechanic since his return from overseas in 1983, officials said.

Between 1980 and 1983, public records in California show, Weirick has had three drunk-driving arrests that led to convictions. He was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 1980 in Utah, according to court records.

The last two drunk-driving arrests occurred within five months of each other in Newport Beach--one in July and one in December, 1983, court documents show. His driver's license was suspended in August, 1985, and reinstated last month, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

"I remember what he looks like; tall, thin guy with dark hair, kind of a little flaky," said attorney Michael Sheldon. "Irresponsible seems to cover my recollection, hard to reach, wouldn't be in court when he was supposed to be." Sheldon was Weirick's attorney after his last drunk-driving arrest. He practices law in Santa Ana.

Nevertheless, the Marine's father, Robert H. Weirick, 53, of Los Angeles, insisted several times in an interview Wednesday that his son is not the type to get into trouble and said he did not know of the drunk-driving incidents. When asked if he was surprised about the spying accusations, he replied: "I don't know. I don't know what they (the possible charges) are."

'Never in Any Trouble'

The senior Weirick, describing his son as quiet and athletic, said he played catcher for his high school baseball team in Eureka before entering the Marines straight out of high school.

"He's always sort of been quiet and never in any trouble or nothing," Robert Weirick said Wednesday. "He's a Marine, right?"

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