Crime & Justice

Cruise passenger to be sentenced for stealing drugs from ship's medical center

A 30-year-old cruise ship passenger who allegedly broke into the vessel's medical center and stole morphine and other drugs is set to be arraigned before a Los Angeles federal magistrate this morning.

Phillip John Struble is charged with burglary involving controlled substances and possession of a controlled substance on board a vessel in connection with the theft aboard the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Paradise.

According to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent in support of the federal felony charges, a search of Struble's cabin hours after the Valentine's Day break-in uncovered numerous syringes of the highly controlled painkillers morphine and Dilaudid, and hundreds of Percocet tablets.

Among the medications missing from the ship's narcotics cabinet were syringes of Dilaudid and morphine, vials of phenobarbital, and Xanax and Percocet tablets, according to the affidavit.

The events of Feb. 14 began about 7:30 a.m. when a nurse arrived at the medical center for her shift and noticed the narcotics cabinet had been burglarized.

Several hours later, the Paradise captain called for a full search of the ship due to the lethal potential of the missing drugs. An investigation was also launched to determine who stole the narcotics.

Two stewards said they had noticed Struble near the medical center at about 5:30 a.m. that morning.

The ship's physician said he suspected Struble was involved since the passenger had come to the medical center the previous evening complaining of pain from kidney stones and was given painkillers.

Under questioning, Struble, who was traveling with his fiance on the cruise to Mexico, said he had tried the doors of the medical center early that morning but found them locked, the FBI agent wrote.

Struble gave consent to a search of his cabin which allegedly uncovered more than 200 Percocet tablets and one used morphine syringe, court documents show.

Struble also allegedly admitted that more drugs could be found hidden in the cabin's air conditioning vent, where investigators found dozens of morphine and Dilauded syringes, the affidavit stated.

According to investigators, Struble said he had been drunk the night before and met a man he knew only as "Shabiz" who had come to his cabin with the drugs.

Struble was held in the brig until the ship docked in Long Beach where he was interviewed and arrested by FBI agents, court records show.