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Former Texas Army Guard soldier sentenced for stealing military gear, selling it on eBay

A former Texas Army National Guard soldier and a federal program analyst have been sentenced to federal prison time and ordered to pay more than $2.4 million in restitution for military equipment they stole from Camp Mabry and sold on eBay.

Cristal Avila, 27, a former Guard soldier from Fort Worth, Texas, and her accomplice, U.S. Property and Fiscal Office program analyst Joseph Mora, 36, pleaded guilty in August to stealing more than 50 items from the Guard facility over nearly three years.

A federal judge sentenced Avila to two years and Mora to three years in federal prison and ordered them to pay $2.4 million in restitution. They will also remain on supervised release for three years once they finish their prison terms.

The items included thermal night vision devices, infrared aiming lasers, scopes, binoculars and photography equipment, according to court documents. The thefts occurred in multiple incidents between December 2016 and September 2019, according to court documents.

A photo of the entrance sign outside of Gate 3 at Fort Campbell, Ky., on June 4, 2015. (Sam Shore/Army)
‘Easy money’ made selling Army weapons stolen by US soldiers

More than $1 million in weapons parts and sensitive military equipment was stolen out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and sold in a vast black market, some of it to foreign buyers through eBay, according to testimony at a federal trial this week.

In court documents, Avila said she was “extremely remorseful for her crimes.” She said she “has no one to blame but herself for having sabotaged her chosen career.”

Mora managed to pull in more than $563,000 in selling the stolen goods.

Though the stolen items were valued in the millions, she received only $34,400 for her role in the thefts.

“The sentencing of Mora and Avila sends a clear message to those who break their military oath of protecting this nation by stealing and selling military technology for profit,” said San Antonio Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, with Homeland Security Investigations.

“Scopes, infrared laser aiming equipment, and thermal night vision goggles are highly advanced technologies, giving our military a much deserved edge on today’s battlefield,” he said. “These schemes could potentially provide an opportunity for foreign adversaries to obtain sensitive U.S. equipment.”

The pair are far from the first to conduct such a scheme.

Former platoon Sgt. Michael Barlow pleaded guilty to theft of government property and conspiracy. He testified at the 2017 trial of John Roberts, of Clarksville, Tennessee, and Cory Wilson, who would find soldiers on Facebook selling military items, then ask for more expensive and harder-to-find items.

That tactic eventually led to the theft, shipment and sale of more than $1 million in weapons parts and sensitive military equipment stolen out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, that was then resold to buyers in Russia, China, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

The conspiracy ran from 2013 into 2016. Text messages between the soldiers and the civilians showed regular meet-ups to swap money for ballistic plates, helmets, scopes and gun sights, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sarah Perry, an agent with the Army Criminal Investigation Command, who testified at the trial.

One sergeant, identified in court as “E5 Rick,” texted Roberts about going on “hunting trips” while on duty, which meant he was breaking into cars to steal equipment, Perry testified at the time.

The Army identified about five surplus stores around Fort Campbell that were selling military equipment through backdoor deals, she said.

Wilson was sentenced to nearly four years in early 2018, former soldiers Barlow, Kyle Heade and Jonathan Wolford all pleaded guilty and were sentenced to between three and five years each.

More recently, Vermont National Guard supply Sgt. Ammon Yule, 43, was sentenced in July to three years supervised released and restitution.

Yule ordered equipment, including dozens of duffel bags, parkas and boots, from a military equipment distribution center in Kentucky to the Rutland Armory in Vermont from 2017 to 2018, selling the items on eBay.

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