Charges Filed Against 4 Dealers in Surplus Goods

Times Staff Writer

Criminal charges against four North County dealers in surplus goods, ranging from tax evasion to accepting stolen government property, have been filed this month as part of a continuing investigation of military equipment thefts from Camp Pendleton, the U.S. attorney's office announced Thursday.

Word of the filings comes more than three months after the FBI and U.S. Navy officials revealed that for 1 1/2 years they had jointly conducted a "sting" operation in which undercover agents ran "Golden State Surplus," a phony Oceanside military surplus store.

During that time, agents purchased pilfered field equipment at discount prices from hundreds of service personnel, and then sold the gear to surplus wholesalers in California and other states. Numerous dealers ignored agents' warnings that the equipment had been stolen, authorities said.

Sixty-five suspects, most of them Marine enlisted personnel, were indicted in December and charged with theft. Twenty-one already have pleaded guilty.

Asst. U.S. Atty. Pamela J. Naughton said Thursday that "felony information" charges of accepting stolen property were filed this week against Thomas Prutzman, 55, a retired Marine and owner of Apollo Surplus in Oceanside. Marie Davies, 52, owner of Jeannette's in Oceanside, was similarly charged. Each faces a maximum 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Under a felony information charge, a defendant waives the right to a grand jury hearing. Both Prutzman and Davies are expected to plead guilty, Naughton said.

Neither Prutzman nor Davies would comment on the charges filed against them. Prutzman, however, described himself as "a very critically ill man facing major surgery, and I don't know what the government wants with me."

"If they want me, they better hurry up and get me, or I'm going to be a dead man," he said.

A felony information charge of tax evasion was filed Tuesday against Jerry Alexander, 45, former operator of Sad Sack Surplus in Oceanside, Naughton said. Alexander had earlier pleaded guilty to one felony count of receiving stolen government property, agreed to give up his store and is awaiting sentencing.

The maximum penalty for tax evasion is five years in prison and $100,000 fine.

Alexander's two sons, Jerry Jr. and Robert, pleaded guilty in January to receiving stolen property and also are awaiting sentencing.

On March 14, a 20-count indictment alleging receipt and sale of stolen government property was filed against Richard Thompson, 39, a free-lance surplus dealer who operated his business out of his Oceanside apartment, Naughton said. Thompson is expected to appear April 29 at a hearing in U.S. District Court in San Diego.

In addition, Naughton disclosed Thursday that two Denison, Tex., surplus dealers have pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy charges of accepting equipment stolen from Camp Pendleton. The two, Jeff Thomas and Jeff Starling, operated Genuine Military Surplus in Denison and have yet to be sentenced.

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