This 1994 case centered an international conspiracy to smuggle AK-47 machineguns, like the one shown here, from China into the United States. Hammond Ku, the principal U.S. suspect, and his co-conspirators knew smuggling routes intimately and were deeply involved in the Asian illegal arms trafficking market.
ATF Special Agent Richard Stoltz and one of Operation Dragonfire's principal defendants meet in a parking lot to discuss the purchase of firearms.
Undercover ATF and U.S. Customs Agents infiltrated the smuggling ring and gained Ku’s trust. When Ku’s Chinese co-conspirators demanded upfront payment for 2,000 AK-47 machineguns, an extraordinary total authorization of $700,000 was approved and the deal consummated. During later negotiations for rocket launchers and other weapons, someone leaked information to the press, and the investigation had to be prematurely terminated. Search warrants resulted in the seizure of an additional 800 firearms.
The Arrest and Adjudication
In 1997, Special Agents obtained 13 arrests warrants in the United States, China and Cambodia and seized approximately 800 firearms. A grand jury indicted 13 individuals and one corporation on federal charges of smuggling, conspiracy, money laundering and firearms offenses. Of the 13 defendants, eight fled the United States to avoid prosecution after the news leak. Two additional indictments were dismissed. In the end, three individuals were convicted.
The Crime and Investigation
What began in 2002 as a conspiracy to acquire illegal firearms and unregistered bombs expanded to include a plot to destroy religious property. The suspects included a podiatrist, dentist and Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL). In a joint investigation with the Pinellas County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office, ATF Agents and Sheriff’s deputies seized a variety of machineguns, explosive devices and other prohibited weapons from the home of one suspect. They also recovered notes and schematics delineating plans to bomb a local Islamic education center.
Thirty-seven explosive devices were found in the Goldstein residence, along with instructions on how to build bombs. The suspects intended to use the bombs against law enforcement and an Islamic education center.
ATF confiscated three firearms from the Goldstein residence similar to the models on display.
Remington M-870, 12-gauge, short-barrel shotgun
Grenade Launcher, 37mm
Glock Model 17, 9mm pistol
Search warrants were executed in 11 different locations, yielding 60 firearms, 37 destructive devices and valuable documentary evidence. Four defendants were arrested by ATF Agents and Sheriff’s deputies on a variety of federal charges, including conspiracy, possession of unregistered destructive devices, attempt to destroy religious property and firearms violations.
Dr. Robert Goldstein, the principal suspect, and his accomplice Dr. Michael Hardee were each convicted on three charges and sentenced to 151 months and 41 months imprisonment, respectively. Samuel Shannahan, the FFL, was convicted on one charge and sentenced to 56 months. Kristi Goldstein, Robert’s wife, received 36 months.