For Immediate Release
Third Defendant Pleads Guilty in Case Involving the Unlawful Possession, Manufacturing and Trafficking of Unregistered Ghost Guns Sold as Part of “Hit Kits”
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — A resident of New Paris pleaded guilty in federal court to a one-count Information charging conspiracy to deal and manufacture firearms without a license, U.S. Attorney Eric G. Olshan announced today. His plea follows earlier guilty pleas from his two co-defendants in the case to charges of possession, manufacturing and trafficking of firearms, among other offenses.
Wayne Farabaugh, 55, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stephanie L. Haines. In December and October of 2023, respectively, co-defendants Craig Zahradnik, 52, of Altoona, and Harry Miller, 47, of Martinsburg, each pleaded guilty to seven counts before Judge Haines. Zahradnik’s sentencing scheduled for April 10 and Miller’s for March 11.
In connection with their guilty pleas, Farabaugh, Zahradnik and Miller admitted that, between May 2022 and April 2023, they were part of a conspiracy to engage in the business of manufacturing and dealing in firearms without a license. Specifically, Miller and Zahradnik were partners in an illicit business operation engaged in the manufacturing and trafficking of privately made firearms—so-called ghost guns—with Miller purchasing the components and maintaining many of the weapons at a storage unit that Zahradnik, a retired police detective, controlled. Beginning in July of 2022, Zahradnik provided $5,000 payments to Miller that Miller then deposited into his bank account, totaling $30,000. Miller used these funds to purchase the firearm components from outside Pennsylvania and repaid Zahradnik with the proceeds from the gun sales, including from the sale of what Miller marketed as “hit kits,” consisting of a 9-millimeter Polymer80 handgun with no serial number, a threaded barrel with an attached silencer, subsonic ammunition and latex gloves.
Farabaugh admitted that he assisted Miller and permitted him to use machinery at Farabaugh’s place of employment to drill the components for ghost guns. Miller also used this equipment to manufacture untraceable weapons and weapon components that were required to be registered with the government under the National Firearms Act, including silencers, machineguns and short-barrel rifles. Zahradnik transported the “hit kits” and other firearms to and from Miller for scheduled buys. On other occasions, Miller and Zahradnik transported firearms together.
Zahradnik further admitted that, in March 2023, he transferred a firearm and ammunition to Miller, knowing that Miller intended to sell, dispose of or transfer the firearm and ammunition in furtherance of a felony, and unlawfully transferred firearms that were not registered to him. As part of their guilty pleas, Zahradnik and Farabaugh both admitted that they knew Miller was a convicted felon and was therefore prohibited from possessing firearms.
During their plea hearings, Zahradnik and Miller further pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a machinegun, illegal trafficking in firearms and unlawfully engaging in the business of manufacturing and dealing in firearms.
“This case illustrates the extraordinary danger associated with the unlawful manufacturing and trafficking of ghost guns,” U.S. Attorney Olshan said. “These defendants admitted selling so-called ‘hit kits’ to anyone looking for an untraceable firearm packaged together with a silencer and even latex gloves. The potential for lethal consequences is staggering. As always, we will continue to work side by side with our partners in federal, state and local law enforcement to ensure that those who put profit over public safety are held accountable.”
“The unlawful sale of firearms is a primary focus of ATF,” said Eric DeGree, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “In this case, self-styled ‘hit kits’ pose a critical threat to the safety of our citizens. The result of this investigation is a testament to the longstanding collaboration with our local, state and federal partners, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the Altoona Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. I would like to thank the dedicated work of the investigators and prosecutors for dismantling this illegal firearm distribution operation.”
Farabaugh is scheduled to be sentenced May 15 with the law providing for a maximum sentence of five years. Zahradnik and Miller each face a maximum total sentence of 70 years in prison, a total fine of $1.27 million or both. Under the federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen Sheehan-Balchon is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted the investigation that led to the prosecutions. This case was prosecuted under the new criminal provisions of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which Congress enacted and the President signed in June 2022. The Act is the first federal statute specifically designed to target the unlawful trafficking and straw-purchasing of firearms.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department of Justice launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities and measuring the results.