Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
The Combat Center’s Criminal Investigation Division is cracking down on the use, purchase and sales of synthetic drugs such as bath salts and spice.
The CID is responsible for investigating all criminal violations and instances that the Department of Defense has a vested interest. One of the most pressing concerns is narcotic-related offenses.
As part of their crack down on the problem, the division has implemented narcotic interdiction operations to help fight crime before it actually happens.
“We try to be as proactive as possible,” said Michael A. Bonilla, investigations officer, Criminal Investigation Division. “As part of our mission we recognize that spice and bath salts are a problem among active duty personnel and our number one goal is deterrence.”
These operations include a surveillance program targeting all of the off-limit establishments in the Morongo Basin area. These establishments, mainly smoke shops, are identified by the Combat Center Armed Forces Disciplinary Review Board and the CID as known sellers of synthetic drugs and derivatives banned by the DOD and the Marine Corps.
Agents monitor the establishments. Service members violating the off-limits order and caught with possession of the banned substances are detained and processed in accordance with DOD directives and federal law.
Violations of the off-limits order result in a minor offense report, which is left up to the command of the service member for disciplinary action. Those caught with synthetic drugs will face severe consequences following a criminal investigation.
In the five months the surveillance program has been in effect, it has resulted in approximately 50 minor offense reports issued, more than a dozen criminal investigations and 14 to 16 suspects being charged with Articles 92 or 112(a) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“It’s definitely been very successful,” Bonilla said. “We are very pleased with our agents out on the streets making the apprehensions.”
Following their detention, a criminal investigation is ensued, which can lead to further problems for violators.
“Usually when a criminal investigation is initiated it’s not a single violation. It usually becomes multiple violations under the UCMJ,” Bonilla said. “We’ve caught people with stolen property in addition to possession of spice, and that just adds on to their legal problems.”
It is a common practice that Marines caught in possession of banned substances are processed for administrative separation from the Corps, Bonilla continued. Once a criminal investigation is initiated, it also creates a criminal report on their record which follow them into the civilian world.
In some cases, those caught with large quantities of spice or bath salts have served considerable jail time.
“Marines need to know they are being watched,” Bonilla said. “If they are engaged in any type of illegal activity, they are going to get caught sooner or later.”