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Theft of military weapons, collectibles widespread


Wednesday, this newspaper reported, Zachary Sizemore, an active duty Wright–Patterson Air Force Base Security Forces member was arrested for selling nearly 40 pieces of military equipment on eBay for $50,000 between July 2013 and November 2016. He was arrested by Homeland Security on charges of theft of government property. Sizemore faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The list of equipment sold by Sizemore includes night vision goggles, infrared aiming lights, red dot sights, monoculars, and other aiming or sights devices.

The illegal sale of military equipment is still an ongoing problem. Items stolen from military museums and bases and resold or intended to be resold is not a new incident. Similar events have occurred before, both locally and abroad. In 2003, the Dayton Daily News reported that Scott A. Ferguson, the Air Force Museum’s former chief of collections, who was believed to be responsible for the loss of thousands of items from the museum including Nazi helmets, a Lufewaffe dagger, Japanese medals, a Samurai sword, and more.

At the time, the Daily News reported “Ferguson claimed to have shipped artifacts to places that either didn't exist or later said they never received them. This is the method federal prosecutors say Ferguson used to conceal the sale of the stolen armored vehicle, known as a Peacekeeper. Records show he claimed he shipped the Peacekeeper in 1996 to the National Air Intelligence Center (NAIC) elsewhere at Wright-Patterson Air Force base. The NAIC said it never got the vehicle.” He was later found guilty in the sale of the Peacekeeper.

It is also believed items including space suits, Nazi memorabilia, and even a missile, on their way from a recently closed satellite museums to the main museum, were intercepted by a member of the museum’s staff and a friend of the member who collected military memorabilia.

The theft of military items, be they memorabilia including medals and uniforms from past wars or weapons and weapon accessories from current military installations, is an ongoing problem. In the past year, there have been at least four thefts of military memorabilia and/or weapons across the country ranging from Civil War relics right on up to Iraq War keepsakes. "There's a big market out there for this stuff.” Clyde F. Autio, a major general in the Air Force and a Xenia native, said in the 2003 Daily News article.

Other incidents of military memorabilia theft include:

In February, two Colt revolvers and a Henry rifle were stolen from the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA.  

In August, an Iraq veteran in Denver was robbed of diplomas, medals, letters, and items from the battlefield.

In September, multiple rings from WWII were stolen from an antique store in Naperville, IL.

In October, soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell were charged with conspiracy to steal and sell when it was discovered they had been stealing military weapons and accessories, ranging from sniper telescopes, body armor, grenade launcher sights, and machine gun parts and selling them on eBay to buyers both domestically and internationally.

Museums and military installations can tighten their internal regulations and enhance security, but at the end of the day, as William Heimdahl, the deputy Air Force historian, said in the Daily News’ 2003 article, “theft and loss of artifacts are ‘a problem for all museums’”. But it is not just museums that are at risk. Anyone, from private citizens to military bases are at risk. As long as there is a market, military memorabilia and weapons will be in danger of theft.

 

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