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Tag: gun trafficking

Congress Considers Boosting Funding for ATF to Crack Down on Gun Trafficking

gunsBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Some members of Congress want to increase ATF funding to crack down on gun trafficking.

Rep. Hakeen Jeffries, D-Brooklyn, has proposed a $60 million funding hike, in part dedicated to stopping the flow of illegal guns into New York, the Daily News reports. 

“The guns used to commit crimes in New York City aren’t manufactured in New York City and they’re not purchased in New York City. They’re coming from states in the deep South, up the I-95 corridor, and from the neighboring state of Pennsylvania,” Jeffries said Monday at a City Hall press conference.

The agency’s funding would be $1.24 billion.

“Why do we continue to underfund this agency in the midst of a gun violence epidemic in America?” Jeffries said. “For years Congress has failed to adequately fund the ATF. This has been part of a deliberate effort to prevent the ATF from doing its job. That is shameful. Over the next few weeks we have an opportunity to correct the situation.”

Other Stories of Interest

Lenient Sentences and Weak Laws Frustrate ATF’s Battle Against Gun Trafficking

By Jeffrey Anderson
For ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Nutveena Sirirojnananont is staring at a possible 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for ordering eight guns online that she directed to a federally-licensed firearms dealer in New Hampshire, but she’s all but guaranteed a fraction of that.

The Newmarket, NH, woman pleaded guilty in January to purchasing the weapons from Suds and Soda Sports, a licensed gun dealer in Greenland, NH, and using intermediaries to ship the weapons to associates in California, Florida and New York, who then shipped them to Thailand.

Sirirojnananont pocketed a 15 percent markup on the guns, which she sold through her online beauty-supply export business, cheapshop4you.com, in Portsmouth, and through an EBAY business called the PookyWookyShop. Sentencing is set for May 5.

The prospect of a light sentence isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s more the rule than the exception in gun trafficking cases around the country, a point that frustrates the top gun enforcement agency, ATF, to no end.

The chief problem, ATF officials say, is that there is no comprehensive federal statute in place that expressly outlaws gun trafficking and so-called “straw purchases” in which third parties buy weapons for people, often affiliated with crime organizations.

Paperwork Violations 

Instead, ATF says it’s forced to rely on “paperwork” violations such as making a false statement on the forms required to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer.

“Currently there is not a firearm trafficking law,” says ATF Agent Timothy Graden, a spokesman for the agency. “Trafficking cases typically involve people with little or no criminal history, therefore allowing them to buy firearms and then divert them to the criminal element.”

Consequently, there are cases all around the country in which people get off light for gun trafficking. Some even get probation.

Such is the case of Neil Smith, of Little Rock, AR, who got off last year with felony probation after ATF agents purchased seven firearms from him. Smith later admitted to illegally selling between 50 and 100 guns for profit.

In St. Paul, MN, Paul De La Rosa, who purchased over 119 firearms that he trafficked to Mexico, allegedly to a drug cartel, received just 36 months in prison.

And then there’s the more highly publicized case of Denver woman Stevie Vigil, who in March was sentenced to less than three years in prison, after pleading guilty to buying and transferring a firearm to a convicted felon and prison gang member who used the gun to murder Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Tom Clements at his home, and a Dominos pizza delivery man named Nathan Leon.

Read more »

Special Report: Lenient Prison Sentences and Weak Laws Frustrate ATF’s Battle Against Gun Trafficking

By Jeffrey Anderson
For ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Nutveena Sirirojnananont is staring at a possible 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for ordering eight guns online that she directed to a federally-licensed firearms dealer in New Hampshire, but she’s all but guaranteed a fraction of that.

The Newmarket, NH, woman pleaded guilty in January to purchasing the weapons from Suds and Soda Sports, a licensed gun dealer in Greenland, NH, and using intermediaries to ship the weapons to associates in California, Florida and New York, who then shipped them to Thailand.

Sirirojnananont pocketed a 15 percent markup on the guns, which she sold through her online beauty-supply export business, cheapshop4you.com, in Portsmouth, and through an EBAY business called the PookyWookyShop. Sentencing is set for May 5.

The prospect of a light sentence isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s more the rule than the exception in gun trafficking cases around the country, a point that frustrates the top gun enforcement agency, ATF, to no end.

The chief problem, ATF officials say, is that there is no comprehensive federal statute in place that expressly outlaws gun trafficking and so-called “straw purchases” in which third parties buy weapons for people, often affiliated with crime organizations.

Paperwork Violations 

Instead, ATF says it’s forced to rely on “paperwork” violations such as making a false statement on the forms required to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer.

“Currently there is not a firearm trafficking law,” says ATF Agent Timothy Graden, a spokesman for the agency. “Trafficking cases typically involve people with little or no criminal history, therefore allowing them to buy firearms and then divert them to the criminal element.”

Consequently, there are cases all around the country in which people get off light for gun trafficking. Some even get probation.

Such is the case of Neil Smith, of Little Rock, AR, who got off last year with felony probation after ATF agents purchased seven firearms from him. Smith later admitted to illegally selling between 50 and 100 guns for profit.

In St. Paul, MN, Paul De La Rosa, who purchased over 119 firearms that he trafficked to Mexico, allegedly to a drug cartel, received just 36 months in prison.

And then there’s the more highly publicized case of Denver woman Stevie Vigil, who in March was sentenced to less than three years in prison, after pleading guilty to buying and transferring a firearm to a convicted felon and prison gang member who used the gun to murder Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Tom Clements at his home, and a Dominos pizza delivery man named Nathan Leon.

Read more »

Defense Attorney Still Questions Whether FBI Agent’s Text Messages Were Destroyed: Govt. Says It Did Nothing Wrong

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
The legal battle between the defense and prosecution is heating up in an undercover FBI sting into gun trafficking in the Philippines.

The battle began when deputy Federal Defender John Littrell in Los Angeles accused a a California undercover FBI agent of using taxpayer dollars to pay for prostitutes in the Philippines for himself and targets of the sting. The agent, in court papers, adamantly denied the allegation.

Then Littrell filed a motion last month alleging that the government only saved incoming text messages the FBI agent received from the targets, but didn’t save the ones that the agent sent out to the targets. Littrelle suggested the government may have intentionally destroyed the texts, which might be of  help in proving entrapment.

The government in a document filed on Oct. 24, said  that the undercover phone, which was a pre-paid phone purchased in the Philippines, was not capable of saving outgoing messages the agent sent to the defendants.

The government also noted that another phone used by the agent was lost in a cab in the Philippines and was not recovered.

“The government acted in good faith at all times, and there is no reason to believe that the agents’ outgoing texts were exculpatory in any way, particularly in light of the very incriminating nature of the defendants’ email, text, and other communications to the agent,” the government wrote.

But on Thursday, defense attorney Littrell, who represents one of three defendants, Sergio Syjuco, wrote in a motion:

In its opposition, the government admits that the undercover agent failed to preserve any of the outgoing text messages he sent during the 18-month investigation in this case. The government’s excuse for the undercover agent’s failure to preserve his outgoing messages from September 2010 to May 2011 (the “first phone”) was that  he lost the phone in a taxi in Manila. Its excuse for the undercover agent’s failure to preserve his outgoing text messages from May 2011 to January 5, 2012 (the “second phone”), was that the “undercover phone did not save outgoing text messages, and they are “not available on the undercover telephone.” The government does not explain why messages are unavailable on the second phone, and it does not attach a declaration from the agent. It does not rule out the possibility that the undercover agent deliberately lost the first phone, or deleted the messages or altered the settings on the second phone to prevent it from saving outgoing texts. The government says only that “there were no messages in the “sent” box.” This explanation is not complete, and it is not convincing.

The fight continues. Stay tuned.

Exclusive: Undercover FBI Agent Accused of Using Taxpayer $$ to Pay for Prostitutes in Philippines for Himself and Defendants in Sting

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

An undercover California FBI agent is being accused of spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on prostitutes in the Philippines “for himself and for defendants” in a gun-trafficking sting and that “many of the prostitutes were likely minors.”

The ticklethewire.com has reviewed the allegations  in court papers that were  filed on September 17 in Los Angeles federal court by John Littrell, a deputy Federal Public Defender, who represents one of the three defendants.

“In order to induce the defendants to participate, an undercover agent spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on prostitutes for himself and for the defendants,” Littrell wrote. “Many of these prostitutes were likely minors. These crimes were not victimless.  Indeed, only months after an undercover agent paid thousands of dollars of taxpayer money for prostitutes at a well-known brothel in Manila, the Philippine government raided the brothel, and rescued twenty under-aged girls.”

Littrell has asked the judge to dismiss the case based on “outrageous governmental misconduct,” citing the use of prostitutes  in the case —  including for the agent — and allegations that the FBI manufactured the case after it failed to find real weapons traffickers in its investigation into Transnational Asian Organized Crime that began in 2010 and ended in December 2011 with criminal charges. A Nov. 13  trial has been set.

“The defendants became involved in this offense only after the government’s effort to ensnare a true weapons trafficker fell apart,” the court documents says. “More importantly, the actual crimes charged in this case — importing weapons to the United States — were committed by federal agents acting unilaterially , without help from the defendants.” In other words, he alleged, that the FBI agents, not the defendants, actually shipped the weapons to the U.S., and the FBI deliberately lied on customs declarations — all so the FBI could charge the defendants with illegal importation of weapons.

The Philippino defendants Sergio  Santiago Syjuco, Cesar Ubaldo and Arjyl Revereza are charged  with conspiracy and importation of firearms. Littrell, who represents Syjuco, alleges that the defendants were not weapons traffickers, but the FBI pushed them into obtaining and selling guns. Authorities allege that the defendants sold weapons and helped facilitate the importation of the weapons to the U.S.

Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles said Sunday: “As a policy, we’re not authorized to comment on pending prosecution, but the government will respond to the motion in court.” Government lawyers in the case at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles and the Justice Department in Washington did not respond Sunday to emails asking for comment.

Defense attorney John Littrell commented Sunday, saying: “There is no legitimate justification for an FBI agent supporting sex trafficking in a foreign country. I hope these are the actions of a poorly supervised agent, and that they were not sanctioned by the department of justice. Either way, this conduct should be thoroughly investigated.”

The undercover agent, who posed during the sting as an arms broker for the Mexican cartels,  is only identified in the court documents by his undercover name Richard Han.

After the indictment, as  part of its own investigation into the case, the Federal Defender’s Office sent an investigator to the Philippines, who spoke to workers in the brothels and came up with allegations about the prostitutes and the undercover agent.

“On several occasions, the undercover agent invited Syjuco, Ubaldo, Revereza and others to ‘Air Force One,’ “Area 51,’ and other brothels in and around Manila in order to reward them for their efforts and encourage them to continue looking for weapons, “attorney Littrell wrote in the court document, based on his office’s own investigation. “Using the name ‘Richard Han,” he ordered prostitutes and paid for himself and others to have sex with the prostitutes.”

Littrell writes that Ariel Escosio, a manager at Area 51, said that the undercover agent known as Richard Han always paid for everything in the club and that he particularly liked to have sex with someone named Natasha.

Littrell noted in the court document that Gerry Albrido, manager at Air Force One,  said the agent was abusive and degrading to prostitutes.

“One on occasion, Han demanded that several prostitutes in the club line up and drink five shots of hard liquor,” Litrell wrote. “Han demanded that several prostitutes in the club line up and drink five shots of hard liquor. Most of the girls did so, but one them, who was very small, coud not drink the liquor and poured it out. Mr. Alberight stated that Han yelled at the girl and forced her to drink the alcohol until she vomited.

Lattrill noted that the government turned over some documentation from the investigation involving expenses in the Philippines.

“Although the government represents that these expenditures were for ‘entertainment and cocktail (tips included) it is impossible that the agent could not have known that the money went toward prostitutes,” Littrell wrote. “On May 9, 2011, the agent was entertained for several hours in a private room at  Air Force One, a prostitution club. He sought reimbursement of more than three thousand dollars for ‘entertainment and cocktail (tip included) for that night.”

Littrell noted in court papers that on May 5, 2011, that the National Bureau of Investigation, Anti-Human Trafficking Division in the Philippines conducted a “rescue operation” at Area 51 and rescued 60 victims of sex trafficking, including  nearly 20 who were minors.

 

 

Dozen-Plus Arrested in Spokane Crime Ring Bust

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

There were some big happenings in snowy Spokane, Wash., on Thursday, where FBI agents executed multiple searches and made more than a dozen arrests in the culmination of the year-long investigation called Operation “Old School,” reports KXLY.

Multi-agency SWAT teams made raids that stretched across Northern Oregon, Walla Walla, Tri-Cities and Spokane Thursday morning, Frank Harrill of the FBI told KXLY.

The raids targeted a ring of drug and gun running headquartered in Spokane. “The recovery of scores of illegal weapons, pounds of methamphetamine, a live hand grenade you see the level of sophistication, the potential for violence and the harm to our community that these groups pose on a daily basis,” Agent Harrill said.

To read more click here.

ATF Home Raid Yields Dozens of Guns, Drugs at Houston Home Used Mexican Cartel

The logo of the Los Zetas Cartel/baltimore city paper

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Houston ATF agents hit a small jackpot recently when they raided the home used by a Mexican cartel member.

The local KPRC-TV reports that agents seized dozens of guns and 45 pounds of marijuana. Agents were lead to the home by Juan Garcia, who had been arrested after purchasing high-powered rifles at a gun show on New Year’s Eve. Garcia told agents he had shipped 250 weapons to the home in the past two years.

After agents found 26 rifles and $5,000 in Garcia’s trunk, he told agents he was a ranking member of the Zetas, a group of  former Mexican military servicemen that run one of the country’s most violent drug trafficking cartel. On January 4, Garcia led agents to the Houston home, where they seized 34 assault rifles, 21 AR-15s, 13 AK-47s and 45 pounds of marijuana, according to the KPRC report.

To read more click here.

 

49 Indicted in Atlanta on Guns and Arms Charges; Seven Sentenced

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Seven Atlanta men, who were busted in a major crackdown on guns and drugs,  have been sentenced, ATF announced Tuesday. Sentences ranged from 12 months to 151 months.

The men were among 49 defendants indicted in Atlanta, the result of  an undercover ATF investigation that was known as “ATL Blaze.” Undercover agents had spread word that they were looking for arms and drugs, ultimately acquiring 257 handguns, 60 rifles, 46 shotguns, and 10 short-barreled “sawed-off” shotguns from the streets of Atlanta, according to the press release.

In all, 49 people were indicted on charges ranging from conspiring to commit a home robbery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of an unregistered short-barreled rifle, possession of a stolen firearm, unlawful dealing in firearms without a license, possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute, and aggravated identity theft, says the ATF.

To read more click here.

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