PROVIDENCE – A volunteer of the Rhode Island Wing of the Civil Air Patrol pleaded guilty yesterday to misappropriating hundreds of chemical suits and other military equipment and selling them for $38,000.
Joseph R. Croce Jr, 45, of 12 Blue Jay Drive, Cranston, entered his plea in U.S. District Court, Providence. Judge Mary M. Lisi scheduled his sentencing for Dec 3. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.
Croce held the position of Wing Vice Commander in the Civil Air Patrol [Rhode Island Wing], a nonprofit volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, said Kenneth A. Kolben, resident agent in charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service in Boston. Kolben said he didn’t know Croce’s current employment status.
As a quasi-military agency, the Civil Air Patrol is eligible to receive used Defense Department property through an internal re-utilization program, Kolben said. Croce could obtain military equipment just by signing it out under the Civil Air Patrol’s name, Kolben said.
Croce confessed in court yesterday that over a couple of years, he had signed out hundreds of chemical suits and many other items, Kolben said. Much of the equipment turned up at John’s Army Surplus, at Airport Plaza in Warwick, Kolben said. No charges have been filed against the store owners, he said.
The Defense Department discovered the theft after an investigative analysis revealed that the Rhode Island Civil Air Patrol was signing out far more equipment than it could use, and the wrong kinds of items, Kolben said.