Investigators seize more than $750,000 in stolen USMC goods in California

November 14, 2013
The California Army Navy Surplus Store where Washington County and federal investigators claim to have seized more than $750,000 worth of U.S. Marines property Wednesday. - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Washington County detectives along with military investigators Wednesday seized more than $750,000 in stolen U.S. Marine Corps property from an Army Navy Surplus Store in California Borough.

Washington County District Attorney Eugene A. Vittone said charges were pending against the store owners, Mike and Cecilia Miske, after investigators seized cold weather clothing, uniforms, tents and helmets from the business at 1148 Wood St.

The Miskes are brother and sister and live in the California and Brownsville areas, Vittone said. They could not be reached Thursday night.

Vittone said the investigation was rewarding because it not only recovered property belonging to Washington County taxpayers, but it seized items stolen from citizens of the United States.

The investigation also turned up stolen cold weather gear and knives.

“You name it,” Vittone said, adding no stolen military guns were found at the store.

“My hopes were to recover some of what was stolen, but what we ultimately got was beyond my expectations,” he said.

Vittone declined to say what led investigators to the business.

The California case was announced two days after reports surfaced that the owners of a military surplus store in Shippensburg were arrested over the weekend on allegations they had arranged to buy nearly $75,000 worth of military uniforms and equipment from an undercover Naval Criminal Investigation Service agent.

The Patriot-News in Mechanicsburg reported that case involved the arrests of Denise A. and Gary Lee Russell and stemmed from an investigation into a string of burglaries that netted $350,000 worth of military items at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., between Sept. 15 and Oct. 18. Two U.S. Marines were taken into custody after being arrested while allegedly breaking into a building there during a fifth burglary.

Vittone’s office was assisted in the search by the U.S. Marines and NCIS. He said the investigation was ongoing and further details would be released as it proceeds.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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