Soldiers from Fort Lewis Say they Stole for Pills

The News Tribune

September 26, 2008 – Two Fort Lewis soldiers who deserted their unit in July are accused of committing a string of thefts in Eastern Washington, authorities say.

In jailhouse interviews Wednesday, the soldiers told a Spokane television station that they stole to support a drug habit they developed to deal with combat stress they experienced during a 15-month deployment to Iraq.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office reported Tuesday that Pvt. Michael W. Grenkavich, 21, and Spc. Mitchell L. Rea, 22, were living on the streets of Spokane for two months while carrying out a series of crimes. Grenkavich has ties in Eastern Washington.

According to a Sheriff’s Office news release, the men stole a PlayStation 3 from a video shop, two flat-screen TVs from Costco, and jewelry and sports memorabilia from a home. Detectives say the soldiers pawned the stolen items.

In addition, Grenkavich rented power generators on two occasions and pawned them, the release said.

Detectives also were investigating reports that Grenkavich obtained a Washington driver’s license in his brother’s name and used it “to drain the brother’s bank account and to open fraudulent credit accounts,” Spokane authorities said.

Grenkavich was booked into the Spokane County Jail on Tuesday for investigation of second-degree identity theft, first-degree theft, forgery, theft of rental property and first-degree trafficking in stolen property. Rea was booked on suspicion of second-degree theft, trafficking stolen property, forgery and failure to return rental property.

Additional charges were expected.

Both men enlisted in the Army in 2005 and were assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. They served with the Stryker brigade during a deployment to Iraq that ended in September 2007.

Both men told KXLY-TV during jailhouse interviews that they turned to drugs – specifically the prescription painkiller OxyContin – to cope with lingering effects of the combat stress.

“I was desperate for money,” Grenkavich told the station for a story posted on its Web site. “If I wasn’t high, I wasn’t feeling good.”

Both men told KXLY that they want help with their drug problems.

The men will be returned to the Army once they’re released from civilian custody and could face prosecution under military law, a Fort Lewis spokeswoman said Thursday.

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