Colonel Fired for Hiding Drug Money

Monday, November 6th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Army colonel who pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of laundering cash from his wife's drug deals while he headed U.S. anti-drug operations in Colombia has been fired by the Army.

Col. James C. Hiett, a 24-year veteran, has been dropped from Army personnel rolls and as a result will receive no military retirement pay, spokesman Lt. Col. Russell Oaks said Monday. Oaks said Hiett cannot appeal the decision.

Army public affairs officials said they did not know how to reach Hiett to respond to media requests for comment.

A federal judge in July sentenced Hiett to five months in prison, five months of home confinement and one year probation. Hiett pleaded guilty in April to charges he tried to launder $25,000, proceeds from drug shipments his wife made from a post office in the U.S. Embassy in Bogota to New York City.

Laurie Hiett pleaded guilty in January to charges she shipped packages containing $700,000 worth of heroin and cocaine. She is serving a five-year sentence.

James Hiett was U.S. military group commander at the embassy in Bogota at the time. In that job, he was in charge of all U.S. military activities in Colombia, including highly sensitive counterdrug operations.

After the allegations became public in August 1999, Hiett was transferred to a desk job at Fort Monroe, Va.

At the time, the Army said an investigation by its Criminal Investigation Division in Panama cleared Hiett of any involvement in criminal activity, saying he had ``no prior knowledge'' of his wife's cocaine shipments.

In entering his guilty plea in April, Hiett told the court he became aware of his wife's drug money in June 1999 after Army investigators told him of her drug shipments to New York. In the weeks after learning this, Hiett said, he sought to conceal the origins of the money by paying bills in cash and depositing the rest in bank accounts in small amounts.