NC soldier charged in gun-running operation to China
Federal authorities have charged a National Guard soldier who lives in North Carolina with supplying weapons that were later smuggled to China.Posted — Updated
Staff Sgt. Joseph Debose, 29, has been indicted on federal charges of illegal gun dealing and aiding in the illegal export of firearms. He is in custody in North Carolina, pending a move to the Eastern District of New York for prosecution.
Debose, who is assigned to a U.S. Special Forces National Guard unit out of West Virginia, was arrested May 20 in Smithfield as part of a sting operation. Federal agents say he was prepared to provide another shipment of firearms for export, and they seized 13 weapons from him, including a loaded .45-caliber pistol he was carrying.
Two Chinese nationals, Zhifu Lin, 25, and Lilan Li, 23, have been charged with violating the U.S. Arms Export Control Act by exporting weapons to China without a U.S. State Department license. Lin also is charged with operating an illegal gun-dealing business and transporting firearms with obliterated serial numbers.
Federal authorities allege that Debose provided multiple shipments of firearms to associates between December 2010 and April, and the associates then hid the weapons in packages shipped to China. The scheme was discovered when Chinese authorities seized a package containing firearms with defaced serial numbers that had been shipped from Queens, N.Y.
Investigators were able to trace one of the weapons to North Carolina, authorities said.
“The defendants in North Carolina and New York allegedly ran a pipeline of illegal firearms from the United States to China,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
“The defendants allegedly altered the serial numbers on various weapons to disguise their origin in order to export them to China – an indication these guns were going to fall into the wrong hands,” James Hayes, special agent-in-charge of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, said in a statement.
Debose, Lin and Li each each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
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