A FORMER soldier who sold comrades’ medals on eBay while they were away fighting in Afghanistan was jailed for three years.
Simon Rogers, aged 29, stole campaign medals from Iraq and Afghanistan and then sold them for up to £360 of the internet auction site.
The ex-corporal in the Second Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, who saw service in Sierra Leone, Iraq and Macedonia, left the army in September 2008 after suffering a suspected heart attack. But before being discharged, he stole both medals, kit, ammunition and weaponry.
Northampton Crown Court heard Ministry of Defence police raided his Apethorpe home in August last year and found a small arsenal.
As well as ammunition, body armour, hand-fired rockets, smoke grenades, safety fuses and flares, they also found 99 electronic detonators.
John Lloyd-Jones, prosecuting, said: “This was just a tiny fraction of what he had, The Crown has chosen to prosecute items that there can be absolutely no doubt that this defendant had stolen them and should never have had in his possession.
“Regardless of how he acquired the medals, he knew he had no right to retain them, he knew they must be of great sentimental value to others - he did not sell his own medals - but he decided to sell those of others. He also knew he should have made some effort to return them.”
Rogers, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was left at Colchester barracks while his regiment was deployed to Afghanistan.
The court heard the selling of four campaigns medals prompted threats from ex-colleagues.
Mr Lloyd-Jones added: “Regardless of how he came by these explosives and ammunition, the fact of the matter is this defendant, from his military service, knew what these items were, he knew he had no right to possess them. They could have been used by others and should never have been kept insecure in his shed or home. He knew what they were and that he should not have had them”
Sentencing, Judge Richard Bray said: “These were medals for active service in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were naturally prized possessions of those who were awarded them, but you acknowledge by your guilty pleas, you stole these items and sought to sell them.
“Fortunately they have all been recovered but these were very mean offences, in breach of trust, committed against persons in your own battalion which must have caused very serious distress to those from whom they were taken.
“Secondly, I have to sentence you for possessing ammunition, weaponry and other items of army equipment.
“Some of these items were potentially very dangerous. I appreciate you have not sought to sell or pass these items on nevertheless, they were found lying about your address and could easily have fallen into the wrong hands with devastating consequences.”
Kevin Talbot, mitigating, said Rogers found the medals and weaponry lying around the barracks as the battalion was in the process of moving.
The court heard Rogers is sole carer for his wife, who suffers from cancer, and suffers from PTSD after seeing a friend killed in action.
Mr Talbot, who mitigated for almost 90 minutes, asked the judge to suspend the sentence with treatment for his mental health difficulties.
He added: “He was not thinking clearly or logically and up until this time, was stickler for all the military’s requirements.
“There is no evidence the defendant was responsible for the original theft of the medals. What he accepts is he thought they were abandoned, left in a skip and he took possession of them. Not only did he have an abiding interest in joining the army but also in all thing military.”
An MOD spokesman said: “The Armed Forces deserve the best possible kit and support and the MOD takes a zero-tolerance approach to any theft, fraud or deception which deprives them of that. This case represents another successful conviction of an offender whose actions prevented the Armed Forces from using the equipment required to carry out their job. The MOD Police robustly enforce a zero-tolerance approach and if we believe items have been illegally obtained then we will investigate and seek to prosecute.
“We will now be seeking to reclaim assets from Rogers under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Buyers also need to be aware. There is a thriving market in military goods but it is their responsibility to check that the kit they buy is being sold legally. If not they could be visited by our officers, have their purchases seized and even find themselves before the court.”