Army Vet Pleads Guilty in Heist Stealing $2 Million in Combat Gear from Fort Hood

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The sun rises at the Vanessa Guillén gate at Fort Hood, Texas.
The sun rises at the Vanessa Guillén gate before the arrival of a Congressional Delegation at Fort Hood, Texas, May 5, 2021. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Evan Ruchotzke)

An Army veteran involved in a multimillion-dollar heist of combat gear at Fort Hood, Texas, accepted a plea deal Tuesday and is set to be sentenced this summer.

Jessica Smith admitted to her role in stealing more than $2 million worth of Army equipment, breaking into 17 storage containers with bolt cutters in June 2021 with another veteran who was a civilian employee at the base, Brandon Brown. His trial is set for later this spring.

In March 2021, Brown connected with Smith, asking for her help stealing the equipment -- mostly optics soldiers use to shoot and operate at night, according to court documents. Because Brown was a civilian employee at Fort Hood, he had easy access to the base, investigators say. They allege that he also told Smith they would give the stolen goods to a local man, Nathan Nichols, who would sell the equipment online.

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Investigators say the pair stole three PEQ-15 laser range finders, 57 PAS-13 thermal scopes, four PVS-13 night vision scopes, and 10 PVS-7 night vision goggles on June 16.

The following day, they allegedly gave the equipment to Nichols in Corpus Christi, Texas, some 260 miles from Fort Hood. Nichols also pleaded guilty and is set to be sentenced in June.

Nichols posted the equipment on eBay two weeks after the heist, with the stolen goods all together valued at $2,176,000. Army investigators were able to match images on eBay showing the serial numbers to those that were stolen from Fort Hood, court records say.

According to Army investigators, only $1,119,240.00 worth of gear was recovered after federal agents searched his home in July.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: How Brothers in Arms Plotted Theft, Sale of US Army Weaponry

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