A former Navy commanding officer of several minesweepers was sentenced to 19 years in prison Thursday after he was convicted for dealing meth and firearms offenses, the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday.

Lance Esswein, 58, left the Navy as a commander in 2006 and once commanded the minesweepers Ardent and Pioneer.

He received a less-than-honorable discharge from the Navy following 16 years, according to the Feds, but Navy officials declined to discuss specifics of his departure, citing privacy regulations.

Judge Janis Graham Jack determined Esswein’s sentence in part after finding him responsible for distributing nearly 10 pounds of “ice,” according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas release announcing the sentence.

“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,” the release states.

Esswein pleaded guilty in January 2020.

His attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Much of his trial record remains under seal.

But according to a 2019 affidavit from Corpus Christi police detective Jamie Pelfrey, who also serves on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security task force, Palfrey learned via a source that Esswein was distributing “large amounts of methamphetamine in the Coastal Bend area.”

That source arranged to purchase roughly a quarter-pound of meth from Esswein in February 2019, Pelfrey wrote in the affidavit.

When authorities executed a search warrant on Esswein’s Portland, Texas, residence, they found more meth and “numerous firearms staged around the residence,” according to the Attorney’s Office release.

“He also had loaded assault rifles positioned just inside the front door,” according to the release. “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.”

After leaving the Navy, Esswein worked as a risk assessment manager for Nueces County and as an Texas A&M Corpus Christi adjunct professor, according to the Attorney’s Office.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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