Theft Probe Leads To N.Va. Storage Site




 
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January 5th, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Theft Probe Leads To N.Va. Storage Site


Washington Post
January 5, 2007
Pg. B1

Iraqi War Booty Found In Marine's Rented Units
By Theresa Vargas, Washington Post Staff Writer
An investigative trail littered with gold-colored AK-47s, documents labeled "CLASSIFIED" and pistols purported to have been given as gifts to Saddam Hussein led federal investigators here: a Manassas storage center.
Atlantic Self Storage, nestled between Interstate 66 and Route 234, sits across from a Super 8 Motel and is little more than rows of rust-colored garage doors leading to individual units. But according to court documents filed recently in Prince William County, one of the storage units may hold clues for a federal investigation spanning the country.
In a 10-page affidavit for a search warrant, a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service details how about 100 U.S. government and Iraqi weapons, along with secret documents, may have been stolen and ended up in storage units in California and Manassas.
A Marine gunnery sergeant who once lived in Fairfax County and rented storage units in both locations was placed in pretrial confinement at Camp Pendleton because, the agent wrote, "reasonable grounds exist that he poses a serious threat to the national security of the Unites States."
The gunnery sergeant, Gary Maziarz, is charged with larceny of computer and camera equipment, larceny of weaponry and possession of steroids, according to officials at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego. He is scheduled for an Article 32 investigation, similar to arraignment, Jan. 17.
Maziarz's attorney, David Brahms, said that his client maintains his innocence and that the affidavit should be seen for what it is: "What it is, is an attempt by law enforcement to convince a judicial official that there is sufficient evidence for a search, but it is not evidence of guilt."
NCIS officials said they could not talk about the case because the investigation remains open.
Maziarz had worked in an intelligence center in Fallujah, Iraq, from February to May 2006, according to the documents. He was also assigned to a program administered by the National Security Agency and had access to information classified as the " 'Top Secret' level and higher," the papers said.
NSA officials did not respond to a request for comment.
This is what is known from the affidavit, filed in Prince William Circuit Court:
On Oct. 27, a colonel at Camp Pendleton reported as missing a large quantity of U.S. Government trophy weapons acquired during the conflict in Iraq.
An internal investigation cast suspicion on Maziarz, and he consented to a search of a storage facility he rented in Carlsbad, Calif., according to the documents.
That's when investigators reportedly found the weapons: gold-colored Russian Dragunov sniper rifles, gold-colored and nickel-plated AK-47s, four Iraqi swords, radios with Arabic writing, foreign helmets and Iraqi plaques. More than a hundred items are listed.
Authorities then searched another unit and an apartment Maziarz rented in Carlsbad. In his apartment, they found steroids and three commemorative Colt 1911 .45-caliber pistols "reputed to have been presented to Saddam Hussein," the agent wrote. In the storage units, they found more foreign weapons, digital cameras, computers and suspicious documents, according to the affidavit.
"Of note, two folders containing approximately 250 pages of material marked 'SECRET' were also discovered in one of the storage units," the agent wrote.
When investigators reviewed the material, they found that most concerned a 2004 "surveillance report of a suspected terrorist by a United States Government Agency."
"In order to avoid declassification of this document, I am intentionally avoiding any further description," the special agent writes, but he adds that these documents are believed "to be genuine and appropriately classified."
The investigation might have ended in California, but agents reviewing paperwork found a 2000 rental agreement between Maziarz and the Manassas storage center, according to the documents. A map was also found that showed an arrow pointing to unit 228 -- a 10-by-15-foot box that costs $164 a month to rent. It is where two agents showed up Nov. 7.
"I believe that Maziarz is using the Manassas storage unit to hold papers and equipment stolen from the USMC in the Northern Virginia area, just as he used the Carlsbad, CA unit," the special agent wrote, adding that the activity may stretch back as far as five years.
In April 2005, a second lock was put on the Manassas unit at the request of Maziarz, according to the documents.
"He asked me to put on another lock and send him the key," the manager, Ernie Jennison, said recently, standing in front of the barbed wire fence that surrounds the facility.
Jennison said the agents came several times and left a list inside the unit of what they took.
According to the search warrant, agents removed 43 items, including foreign and domestic military gear. They also collected objects that would require further scrutiny, including 74 floppy disks and a locked black briefcase.
Staff writers Josh White and Dana Priest contributed to this report.
 


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