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Marine veteran, Illinois state trooper indicted in $3M Cherry Point equipment theft ring

A former Marine turned Illinois State Trooper has been indicted on charges alleging he and others stole avionics and other electronics from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and sold them to buyers in other states.

He also allegedly used at least one active-duty Marine to help steal possibly 200 pieces gear valued at more than $3 million.

Rafael Montalvo, 31, was arrested Friday and indicted. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison if convicted of the theft of government property, interstate transportation of stolen goods and related conspiracy charges.

The alleged conspiracy took place from March 2018 to the present, according to a statement from the federal prosecutor in North Carolina. The release did not provide details regarding the number or identities of co-conspirators. It also did not specify how much equipment was stolen or the value of the equipment.

After leaving the Marine Corps, Rafael Montalvo (second from left) became an Illinois State Trooper in 2019. He was indicted on federal theft and conspiracy charges for allegedly stealing and selling stolen goods from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (Illinois State Police)
After leaving the Marine Corps, Rafael Montalvo (second from left) became an Illinois State Trooper in 2019. He was indicted on federal theft and conspiracy charges for allegedly stealing and selling stolen goods from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (Illinois State Police)

The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on the case.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent Peter Salomon told the court in a sworn affidavit that he interviewed four witnesses and reviewed phone and banking records that connected sales of the stolen property. He also interviewed command staff at both the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron-14 at Cherry Point and MALS-11 in California.

The first tip came from an October 2019 notification to NCIS that property was missing from MALS-14. The initial item was a $70,000 signal generator. It’s used to design, service and repair electrical components, according to court documents.

After the initial report, MALS-14 conducted further inventory and found another $50,000 in stolen items, which included an oscilloscope and oscilloscope calibrator.

In January, the missing oscilloscope was found on eBay after a “cursory search,” the agent noted. That item had been advertised by a California business, whose owner told investigators that it had been purchased from a civilian individual who had provided the company with items for years. That seller told investigators that the item originally came from Montalvo.

Salomon found that Montalvo had served at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, from Feb. 24, 2015, to Sept. 8, 2017, and worked at MALS-14.

The seller provided text messages and photos along with information on another sender from Cherry Point, North Carolina: Cpl. Marcus Brown, also with MALS-14. Brown was indicted on theft charges in July and awaits trial.

Brown and Montalvo were stationed together in North Carolina from February 2017 to September 2017.

As the investigation continued, MALS-14 conducted further inventories and eventually discovered 200 missing items valued at more than $3 million, according to court documents.

Court documents detailed multiple messages and transactions between Montalvo and Brown in which Montalvo requested specific items and offered Brown as much as $30,000 for some of the equipment.

Montalvo, a Yorkville, Illinois native, formerly served as an Individual Material Readiness List Manager at Cherry Point. After leaving the Marine Corps he became an Illinois state trooper and Illinois Army National Guardsman.

Many of the messages that investigators discovered between Montalvo and Brown happened after he had become a state law officer.

A company owner in Cypress, Texas, later contacted by investigators later told police that he had made an estimated 25 purchases from Montalvo for a total of more than $60,000.

Another company owner in Austin, Texas, estimated he purchased 30 to 45 items from Montalvo in recent years, with some invoices dating back to 2016. The same period of time that Montalvo was still on active duty and serving with MALS-14.

He has been suspended from his duties as a trooper upon the indictment, according to local news sources in Illinois.

Montalvo graduated state trooper training on Oct. 25, 2019, according to the Illinois State Police. He joined District 14 Macomb, Illinois, following graduation. The district is in the western section of the state, near the Iowa and Missouri state lines.

Prosecutors allege that Montalvo conspired with others, not yet named in the release, who shipped stolen goods to buyers or to him in Illinois to sell illegally.

In 2012 Montalvo was a lance corporal who served as an asset manager for Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, according to a Marines.mil posting.

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