Internet Arms Trafficking

The Crime and Investigation

In 2002, confidential intelligence sources informed ATF Agents of an Argentinean suspect brazenly selling machineguns, silencers and conversion kits over the Internet. These firearms were being illegally imported into the United States and other countries. ATF agents quickly established e-mail contact with the suspect and ordered machineguns and silencers, which were mailed disguised as machine parts.

Through innovative investigation techniques, ATF was able to positively identify the suspect and secure search warrants for postal records, electronic financial records and Internet service providers. The investigation concluded that the suspect had been in business since 1999, and had sent or received over 6,500 e-mail messages within a 30-day period. The U.S. Customs Service assisted in this investigation.
 

ordered machineguns and silencers, which were mailed disguised as machine parts
Image of ordered machineguns and silencers, which were mailed disguised as machine parts

Glock Switch

A relatively simple, albeit illegal, device that allows a conventional semi-automatic Glock pistol to function as a fully automatic firearm. The switch is classified as a machinegun under federal law.

Image of an illegal Glock converter switch being attached that changes a conventional semi-automatic Glock pistol to fuction as a fully automatic firearm.
Image of simple, albeit illegal, device that allows a conventional semi-automatic Glock pistol to function as a fully automatic firearm

The Arrest and Adjudication

ATF analysts estimated that the suspect sent hundreds of illegal weapons into the United States. In 2003, a nationwide roundup resulted in dozens of arrests and the seizure of 24 machineguns, 16 silencers, six pipe bombs, seven converted Glock handguns, nine Glock converter switches, three short-barreled rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

The suspect was charged with various violations of federal law and the Office of the United States Attorney prepared a request for extradition. The Argentinean government declined this request because, using ATF's investigative report, Argentinean authorities arrested and jailed the suspect for violations of that country's own firearm laws.

Last Reviewed November 10, 2016