Federal and local law enforcement agencies in Texas have recovered some — but not all — of the night-vision goggles missing from Fort Hood in a series of raids, Army Times has learned.
NVGs are considered extremely sensitive items throughout the military, and units will often lock down their perimeter and organize massive search parties for even one missing device.
The new details come from documents obtained via the Texas Public Information Act and conversations with a source with direct knowledge of the investigation.
An attorney for the city of Corpus Christi, Texas, attempted to block the release of records associated with the investigation, but the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled in favor of Army Times and directed the city to release the documents.
The effort to recover the devices is being carried out under a joint investigation involving Homeland Security, the Postal Inspection Service, Army CID and local law enforcement departments, the source said. Homeland Security Investigations is the lead agency on the case.
All law enforcement agencies associated with the case declined to publicly comment or confirm the case’s details when contacted by Army Times, citing the ongoing investigation.
Investigators believe that the NVGs were stolen from shipping containers between March and May, according to the source.
Typically, NVGs are secured in a unit’s arms room, behind a vault door. But when they are being phased out or are undergoing maintenance, NVGs may be stored in a less secure manner because not all maintenance shops are equipped with heavy vaults like those found in arms rooms.
Some of the stolen devices were tracked to Corpus Christi when they were listed for sale on eBay with their serial numbers showing, the source said.
Investigators quickly identified a person of interest, Nathan Nichols, and obtained a search warrant, according to the source. Attorneys listed for Nichols in court filings from an ongoing federal gambling conspiracy case did not respond to emails from Army Times.
Homeland Security Investigations and local police executed a joint raid on Nichols’ Corpus Christi home on July 9, according to the source and an incident report obtained via the Texas Public Information Act. Nichols and his wife were detained at a nearby traffic stop during the raid, the report said.
According to the source, the raid recovered dozens of NVGs, including thermal sights, infrared lasers and goggles. But not all of them were recovered — some devices had sold and shipped before the raid occurred.
Army Times could not confirm how many NVDs were recovered and how many were sold.
Public federal court records do not contain any new charges for Nichols related to the NVGs, but charges and search warrants in sensitive homeland security cases are often kept under seal.
The source said Homeland Security Investigations also carried out at least one additional raid related to the NVG thefts. The more recent raids targeted an Army contractor near Fort Hood believed to have assisted in the heist, the source added.
Davis Winkie is a staff reporter covering the Army. He originally joined Military Times as a reporting intern in 2020. Before journalism, Davis worked as a military historian. He is also a human resources officer in the Army National Guard.