LONG BEACH — Four sailors and the chief law enforcement officer from a Long Beach-based guided missile frigate face possible court-martial on drug charges and alleged tampering with urinalysis tests, the Navy said.
The five were charged this week after a seven-month investigation that yielded 32 drug-related counts, many of them dealing with the use and distribution of marijuana and a crystal form of methamphetamine, said Lt. Cmdr. Steve Chesser of the Long Beach Naval Station.
The alleged crimes took place on and off the John A. Moore, which has escorted oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and is used now as a naval reserve training ship with a crew of 160.
"It is consistent with our zero-tolerance policy regarding drug abuse," Chesser said. "We became aware of the problem and we took appropriate action, and now the judicial process will go forth."
The investigation was started by the ship's commanding officer, Chesser said. All five men remain restricted to barracks at the base.
Radioman Chief David Riley, the ship's "head policeman," was charged with using methamphetamines and compromising urinalysis tests by swapping samples and warning sailors when random tests were scheduled, Chesser said.
Riley faces an Article 32 hearing, the military's equivalent of a criminal preliminary hearing to determine if there are sufficient charges for a general court-martial. Also scheduled for such a hearing are Engineman 1st Class Alden Hendrickson, charged with three counts of distributing methamphetamines and one court of using the drug, and Operations Specialist 2nd Class Kevin McPike, charged with nine counts of distributing methamphetamines, six counts of using them and one count of using marijuana.
Two other sailors are scheduled to be tried at a special court-martial, a less severe proceeding. They are Electrician's Mates 3rd Class Thomas Hawley and Lonnie Fessler, each charged with one count of distributing methamphetamines.
Navy investigators interviewed at least 18 of the ship's crew members over the past three weeks. Four other sailors suspected of related but less serious crimes will be dealt with in an administrative hearing conducted by the ship's command, Chesser said. Their names were not released.
The Navy randomly tests sailors about three times a year for six drugs, with at least one witness present to ensure the integrity of the sample, Chesser said. The charges allege that some samples believed to show traces of drugs were swapped for clean ones.