RALEIGH, N.C. -- One of the largest military drug investigations in recent years has led to the conviction of more than 80 Marines and sailors at Camp Lejeune for using and selling Ecstasy, cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine.
The two-year, undercover probe resulted in the seizure of more than $1.4 million worth of narcotics and included 105 separate investigations. An additional 99 civilians were charged by civilian authorities.
Code-named Operation Xterminator, the investigation was conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service office at Camp Lejeune, along with state and local authorities.
More details were to be released Wednesday.
The investigation began in February 2000 after Camp Lejeune officials were alerted that a large number of service members were frequenting clubs about 40 miles south of the camp in Wilmington, where designer drugs were prevalent, according to a statement released by Camp Lejeune.
Drug charges were brought against 84 active-duty service members. A Marine Corps official said most were convicted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and two cases are still pending.
Of the 84 charged, 61 were accused of distributing drugs and 23 were accused of using them. Officials provided no information on the sentences meted out to convicted military members.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the maximum punishment for wrongful distribution of drugs is confinement for 15 years, dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances. For wrongful use of drugs, the maximum punishment is confinement for five years, dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Although narcotics cases in the military are not rare, they usually involve smaller numbers of people.
Thirty-eight cadets out of 4,300 at the Air Force Academy were implicated in a rash of incidents that began in December 2000 and grew to become the biggest drug scandal in the school's 47-year history.
In 1996, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., went through problems like the Air Force Academy's: Five midshipmen were court-martialed and jailed on drug charges, and 15 others were expelled.
It was not clear Tuesday whether the Marine Corps was planning additional steps to deter use of illicit drugs. Last December, well after Operation Xterminator was under way, the Marine Corps established a random computerized system to standardize urinalysis throughout the service.
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