First Responders

Texas Man Caught Fencing $2.2 Million in Stolen Fort Hood Night Fighting Gear

March 21, 2022Carl Prine
night vision

Sgt. Christopher Jeffery, a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter crew chief assigned to 1st Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, adjusts his AN/PVS-7 night vision goggles on Oct. 3, 2013, at Forward Operating Base Fenty, in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. US Army photo by Capt. Peter Smedberg.

A Texas man who tried to fence nearly $2.2 million in stolen US Army night fighting equipment and run an illegal gambling den is going to prison.

Nathan Nichols, 46, faces up to five years behind bars for each of the two convictions. He’s slated to be sentenced on June 21 by US District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi.

He’s agreed to surrender $2,185,218.73 in assets tied to the illegal enterprises, including gold bullion, jewels, body armor, a Ford F-150 pickup truck, and currency seized from his home, and the Lady Luck and Rio Sweepstakes gambling facilities in Corpus Christi.

On Friday, March 18, Nichols inked two separate plea deals with federal prosecutors for both the fencing conspiracy and the gambling charge. On Monday, he appeared by video link before US Magistrate Judge Mitchel Neurock, who accepted his pleas.

Coffee or Die Magazine’s attempts to reach Nichols were not successful. According to online Texas jail records, he’s incarcerated in Bexar County. His criminal defense attorneys didn’t reply to messages seeking comment.

Texas man
US Air Force Senior Airman Cody Fuller, a 122nd Security Forces member from the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne, Indiana, aims his PEQ-15 laser device at a target. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. William Hopper.

A 2019 undercover Corpus Christi Police Department sting targeted Nichols for running illegal video slot machines. He was out on bond after being indicted on federal gambling and money laundering charges when someone used bolt cutters to open 17 Conex boxes at Fort Hood, Texas, on June 16, 2021.

US Army investigators counted three AN/PEQ-15 laser range finders, 58 AN/PAS-13 thermal scopes, four AN/PVS-30 night vision sights, 12 AN/PVS-7 night vision goggles, and three AN/PSQ-23A laser aiming devices missing from the steel storage containers.

On June 29, 2021, federal agents spotted a listing by “us-everythingmustgo”  on the online retailer eBay offering sensitive military equipment for sale. The serial numbers on the advertised products seemed to match those for the stolen gear, and the seller’s identity traced back to Nichols in Corpus Christi.

On July 9, 2021, federal agents raided Nichols’ house, recovering all the stolen military items. On Nichols’ phone were conversations between him and a co-conspirator, Jessica Smith, who agents said worked with an unnamed Texas man to steal the gear for Nichols, according to his criminal complaint.

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Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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