THREE men plundered SAS storerooms and stole thousands of pounds of kit that they then sold.
Ringleader Andrew Stevens, 41, was caught on his way to Hong Kong at Heathrow Airport when latent radioactivity in night-vision goggles he was carrying sparked a security alert.
Ministry of Defence police arrested him, uncovering £45,000 of kit at his business, Cracking Day Ltd, and his home in Southdown Road, Horndean.
Body armour, laser sights, night-vision goggles, silencers, distraction grenades, pyrotechnics and scopes were among the items at the addresses.
Police found on his phone a WhatsApp group called Boys Toys, which he used to talk with soldiers Sgt Craig Davenport and Sgt Stephen Suffield.
They stole the kit ‘to order’ from Sterling Lines Army Camp – the SAS base.
Now a judge has jailed Stevens for two years and Davenport for 22 months.
Suffield, who has since quit the Army was handed an 18-month sentence suspended for two years with 200 hours unpaid work by judge Claudia Ackner. He must pay £2,500 compensation.
Stevens, who paid the soldiers thousands, had sold £28,500 of kit via two PayPal accounts to a contact in Japan, prosecutor Adam Norris said.
Mr Norris said some items were on a list of those classed as Attractive to Criminal and Terrorist Organisations.
‘This starts as airsoft and equipment for a game but we’re now talking about an international trade in items that should not be going to other people,’ Mr Norris said at Portsmouth Crown Court.
‘We’re no longer talking about just a game. This is something that has the potential to be something more sinister.’
‘The significance is obvious because our forces in dealing with a situation would not want to be confronted with the sort of equipment they themselves would use,’ he added.
Stevens met Davenport at games organised by his firm. The soldier wanted to set up a similar business.
Davenport, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, took items that were meant for repair, or used details of a fake soldier to order items on a computer system, and said most was from bins.
Suffield had less access and was involved due to £16,000 gambling debts.
All three defendants, who have no previous convictions, admitted conspiracy to steal from Stirling Lines Army Camp, Hereford, between October 2014 and June 2015.
Davenport, 30, of Beltony Drive, Crewe; Suffield, 28, who resigned from the Royal Logistics Corps in Chippenham, Wiltshire; and Stevens, are set to be chased for their ill-gotten cash.