Texan Man Put Behind Bars For Conspiring To Steal Military Materials And Running A Massive Operation

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A judge sentenced a Texas man to more than two years in federal prison and ordered him to pay more than $1 million in restitution following convictions for conspiring to steal sensitive military equipment and operating an illegal gambling business.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Corpus Christi investigated the stolen military equipment with assistance from the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. The FBI and the Corpus Christi Police Department investigated the illegal gambling operation. Nathan Nichols, a 46-year-old resident of Corpus Christi, was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to 27 months in federal prison immediately followed by two years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal government property and operating an illegal gambling business on March 21, 2022.

In July 2021, authorities executed a search warrant at Nichols’ residence. They discovered sensitive military equipment, including laser range finders, thermal scopes, night vision scopes, night vision goggles and laser aiming devices that belonged to the U.S. Army. During his trial, Nichols admitted that he conspired with others to steal sensitive U.S. Army property valued at $2,176,000 from Fort Hood in June 2021. He had been in contact with one of the people responsible for the theft and requested pictures of the property before agreeing to buy it for resale. After he obtained the items, Nichols listed them for sale on eBay.

In a separate case, Nichols admitted that from March 2018 to August 2019, he operated illegal gambling businesses in Corpus Christi. Nichols was the co-owner of Theo’s Bar and owner and operator of Lady Luck. Both facilities contained illegal sweepstakes games that people play by using computers and monitors rather than casino-style equipment. The games are software-based and function as traditional slot-machine games or “8-liners,” but the reels are simulated on a computer screen rather than on mechanical reels. People playing the machines place bets before each spin and receive winnings in cash.

With his guilty pleas, Nichols agreed to forfeit $2,185,218.73 in proceeds from his illegal activities. Nichols will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joel Dunn and Christopher Marin prosecuted the cases with the assistance of Asset Forfeiture Assistant U.S. Attorney Yifei Zheng.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.