Two ex-midshipmen indicted in theft case Pair accused of role in stolen car ring

August 15, 1996|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN STAFF

Two former midshipmen, one a Navy ensign, were indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury on charges that they took part in a car theft ring that already has led to charges against five other former midshipmen.

Joshua M. Gray of Gulfport, La., and Ensign Corey M. Avens of Los Angeles were indicted on one count each of conspiracy to sell stolen cars and another of receiving a stolen car.

Gray was a member of the academy Class of 1996 and resigned in May; academy officials would not discuss his case. Avens graduated with the Class of 1995 and is in civil engineering training in Los Angeles.

Gary P. Jordan, acting U.S. attorney, said he was uncertain when the two would be arraigned and would not say whether the investigation is continuing.

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charge of receiving a stolen car carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Yesterday's charges follow the indictments in April of five former midshipmen and a civilian on charges they participated in a car theft ring. The indictments followed other charges at the academy of drug abuse, sexual misconduct and breaking and entering. The car theft charges helped lead to an unprecedented one-week performance "stand-down" at the academy in April.

Three of the original five who were indicted pleaded guilty to the charges in May and pledged to cooperate with investigators from the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. They are to be sentenced Sept. 10.

The other two are awaiting trial: Joe L. Smith of Jackson, Miss., who was on leave from the academy pending dismissal for offenses unrelated to the indictment; and Navy Ensign Arthur K. Brown of Pensacola, Fla. Brown graduated last year and was preparing for flight training when he was indicted.

According to federal officials, those charged with taking part in the ring are accused of buying stolen cars in New York, transporting the vehicles to Maryland and registering them using phony titles and bills of sale before selling them.

Eight vehicles valued at more than $85,000 were sold, the indictment alleges; two of them were sold to undercover FBI agents.

None of the alleged transactions took place at the academy, although some of the cars were held there before sale, law enforcement officials have said.

Those already pleading guilty are Kenneth Leak, a midshipman dismissed by the academy in 1995; Arthur Sherrod, a senior at the academy; Christopher Rounds, who Navy investigators said distributed a stolen exam in 1992 that led to the biggest cheating scandal in the academy's 150-year history; and Marcus Peterson, a civilian who was friends with some of the midshipmen.

Pub Date: 8/15/96

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