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Press Release

Former Navy commander headed to federal prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 58-year-old Portland man has been sentenced to 19 years in federal prison following his conviction of conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute meth and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Lance Esswein previously served as the commanding officer of the U.S. Navy Minesweeper U.S.S. Ardent. He was also the risk assessment manager for Nueces County and worked as an adjunct professor at Texas A&M Corpus Christi.

He pleaded guilty Jan. 30, 2020.

Today, Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack sentenced Esswein to serve 168 and 60 months for the drug and firearms convictions, respectively. The sentences will be served consecutively for a total 228-month-term of imprisonment. The prison term will be immediately followed by five years of supervised release. In determining the sentence, Judge Jack found Esswein responsible for distributing more than 4.5 kilograms of “ice.”

At the hearing, the court heard additional evidence detailing the reasons for his less than honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy and the termination of his employment with Nueces County. The court also heard Esswein had offered to arrange the murder of two local police officers to prevent their testimony in an unrelated drug case.

Esswein had sold more than 100 grams of meth, after which authorities executed a search warrant at his Portland residence. There, they discovered additional meth and numerous firearms staged around the residence. He also had loaded assault rifles positioned just inside the front door.

The investigation revealed significant additional quantities of meth, other narcotics and firearms at storage units and vehicles Esswein controlled. They found a total of 36 weapons, including stolen firearms and firearms with missing serial numbers.

He has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert D. Thorpe Jr. prosecuted the case.

Updated January 27, 2022

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses