This 1994 case centered an international conspiracy to smuggle AK-47 machineguns 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.
Undercover Meeting: 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.