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Government folds tent in Blackwater weapons case

Posted February 21, 2013 3:32 p.m. EST
Updated February 21, 2013 6:32 p.m. EST

— A federal weapons case against the defense contractor formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide ended Thursday with misdemeanor pleas by two former executives, who were fined and placed on probation.

The case stems in part from a raid conducted by federal agents at the company's Moyock headquarters in 2008 that seized 22 weapons, including 17 AK-47s. An indictment alleged that the company used the Camden County Sheriff's Office to pose as the purchaser of dozens of automatic weapons.

The indictment also alleged that Blackwater purchased 227 short barrels and installed them on long rifles without registering them and that company officials presented the king of Jordan with five guns as gifts in hopes of landing a lucrative overseas contract and then falsified federal documents once they realized they were unable to account for the weapons.

Gary Jackson and William Matthews, the former president and executive vice president of the company and both Navy Seals, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count each of failure to keep records on firearms. They were sentenced to four months of house arrest, three years on probation and fined $5,000.

"We would do anything to defend our country. I regret that mistakes were made, but they were made with the best intentions," Matthews said. 

"I still believe we have the best justice system in the world," Jackson added.

All other charges against the men, including conspiracy to violate firearms laws and possession of unregistered firearms, were dismissed. Prosecutors also dropped all charges against former general counsel Andrew Howell, former procurement vice president Ana Bundy and former weapons manager Ronald Slezak.

"All the things (Jackson) was charged with doing that were crimes that he did and the company did ... for the government, at the request of the government, with the full knowledge of the government, and it's just taken us this long to get the government to understand that and to resolve this case with that misdemeanor," Jackson's attorney Ken Bell said.

Blackwater now goes by the name Academi and has shifted its headquarters to the Washington, D.C., area.

Academi last year agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine as part of a $42 million settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. The government deferred prosecution of 17 criminal charges, and federal agents are monitoring the company's actions for an unspecified period to ensure compliance with federal export laws.