14 sailors implicated in Navy drug investigation

Fourteen sailors assigned to the security department of the U.S. submarine base in Groton have been implicated in a Navy investigation into illegal drug use, officials said Wednesday.

The sailors have all been removed from security duties, according to Christopher Zendan, a spokesman for the base. He said none of the sailors were assigned to submarines and base security was never at risk.

Six sailors and four civilians already have been arrested in a probe by local, state and military officials into the trafficking of hallucinogenic drugs in Groton. Naval officials said the sailors involved could face state criminal charges as well as charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

"NCIS will continue to pursue this case to determine whether any additional Navy personnel are involved with this particular ring, although at this time indications are that all users have been identified," said Gerald Tirocchi, a supervisory special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Two of the sailors were arrested April 30 after a traffic stop and search by NCIS and the Groton police turned up $900 and a small amount of marijuana. On May 1, four sailors were arrested and charged with criminal attempt to possess the drug MDMA, also known as ecstasy.

The investigation also led to the arrests on May 3 of four civilian Rhode Island residents who were allegedly attempting to deliver drugs to a residence in Navy housing. Officers and special agents seized two ounces of MDMA and more than 100 doses of LSD in that operation.

Groton police Lt. John Varone said the suspects' assignment to the base security department was motivation for his department, as well as Navy investigators.

"Anytime that anyone associated with the law enforcement profession violates the ethics or the code of conduct that we have taken an oath to not only uphold but also to live by, it gets us upset," he said. "It tarnishes any shield you have."

Zendan said it was too soon to speculate on actions that the base might take as a result of the investigation.

"The Navy and SUBASE will continue, as always, to work closely with civilian agencies and the community to ensure the safety of our sailors, families, and the communities in which we all work and live," he said.

He said the sailors who had been assigned to the base's Public Safety and Security Department will remain on other assignments for the duration of the NCIS investigation.