TOKYO: The two American sailors who sparked a manhunt after cash was discovered missing from their navy vessel’s safe following a liberty call in Phuket, have been convicted and sentenced in general court-martial proceedings at the Yokosuka Naval Base, the U.S. Embassy and naval criminal investigators have confirmed. Petty Officer 2nd Class Roger Alden Chain, Jr, who served as the disbursing clerk of the USS Thach, pleaded guilty to charges he planned and carried out the theft of $16,897 from the safe of the frigate and purposely missed the ship’s departure from Phuket on June 29. Earlier, the same military judge found Seaman John Michael Pizzifred guilty of absence without leave and of receiving $5,000 in stolen money. He was acquitted on the larceny charge. Thirty-two-year-old Chain, a 14-year navy veteran, was sentenced to 18 months confinement and given a dishonorable discharge. Pizzifred, 20, received 12 months confinement. The judge ordered both men to forfeit their pay. According to a news report published in Stars and Stripes, the navy prosecutor told the court that the two sailors had used the stolen funds to go on a spending spree in Phuket, Phatthalung, Bangkok and Pattaya. How the almost $17,000 was spent was not disclosed in court. Chain testified that he planned the theft while sitting at a Patong Beach bar on June 28, according to the report. He told the court he returned to the ship with Pizzifred just two hours before their 10 p.m. curfew to carry out the scheme. Chain admitted he removed the cash from the safe and met Pizzifred, who had gone aboard to gather clothing, a short time later on the quarterdeck. As the two departed the frigate, they told shipmates they wanted to give some baseball caps with the ship’s insignia to girls they had met and would return before curfew. They didn’t. “I knew my conduct was wrong, I knew I was committing a crime, and I knew I couldn’t go back,” Chain reportedly told the judge. The two turned themselves in to authorities at Bangkok International Airport on August 6. A U.S. Defense Attaché Office spokesman said the sailors called the American Embassy from the terminal building saying they were “penniless.” Officials have yet to recover any of the stolen money.
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