(DC) Probe: Robbers Used Weapons Smuggled From Iraq by Soldier


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K-Romulus
July 16, 2006, 01:23 PM
Is this because of the lapsing of the AWB?
Or maybe because the UN didn't get a treaty on universal gun registration?:rolleyes:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/15/AR2006071500909_pf.html

Probe: Robbers Used Weapons Smuggled From Iraq by Soldier

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 16, 2006; C01

The gang that carried out a series of commando-style bank robberies in the Washington area two years ago used fully automatic assault rifles that were smuggled from the battlefields of Iraq by a soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve, according to investigators.

An investigation by the FBI and local police is centering on several AK-47s the notorious robbers used in some of their heists. In Iraq, such weapons are plentiful and cheap. For the robbery gang, they were key to their strategy: using overwhelming firepower and body armor to frighten and intimidate bank employees and customers -- and ward off police.

New details about the guns have emerged from interviews with law enforcement officials and court records. The arrests and convictions of eight people in the robberies, including two who became government witnesses, led to the spin-off criminal investigation into how the rifles made their way from Iraq to Washington. No one has been arrested in the weapons case.

Authorities said the weapons were part of a small cache purchased for $5,000 from a gang member's friend, who had recently come back from serving in Iraq. The soldier was a member of a military police battalion based at Fort Meade, authorities said.

Law enforcement officials expressed concern that more high-powered battle weapons could end up being used in crimes against U.S. citizens and police. They cited the number, availability and low cost of weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and the profits to be made here at home.

In March 2004, two soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ky., smuggled back 18 machine guns from Iraq and tried to sell them on the street for $1,000 each. They hid the weapons by sawing off the bottoms of oxygen tanks and putting the guns inside, prosecutors said. They then welded back the bottoms and put the tanks in a shipping case that was headed to the United States. They were caught when the "buyer" turned out to be an undercover federal agent. The soldiers later pleaded guilty to federal charges and were sentenced to prison terms.

But a law enforcement official familiar with the bank robbers' case said that winning prosecutions is not easy. Units send their equipment back to the U.S. with little screening, the law enforcement official said. Even if weapons are discovered, tying them to a specific individual is difficult, the official added. Like others, he spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe could lead to charges.

"How do you prove it? You can prove the guys were over there, you can prove the guns are not local," the official said. But tracing exactly who did what and when is a challenge, the official said -- and that is what authorities are trying to do in the bank robbers' case.

For the bank robbers, who wore body armor with ceramic plates that would repel rifle fire, getting the machine guns gave them firepower rarely associated with holdups. Assault-type weapons can be purchased legally in the United States, but only in a semiautomatic version, meaning one squeeze of the trigger fires one round. A fully automatic assault rifle, which can fire continuously when the trigger is held down, is considered a machine gun and is restricted under federal law.

The Washington Post is not identifying the alleged seller because no charges have been filed against him. Military records show he was attached as a clerk with an Army Reserve military police unit based at Fort Meade. His unit, the 400th Military Police Battalion, was in Iraq from February 2003 to February 2004, according to the Army Reserve.

Over the course of several months in 2004, the robbers struck six banks in the District and Maryland, working in swift precision in crimes that netted about $361,000. They opened fire inside three banks and fired at a Prince George's County police officer who tried to stop their getaway. No one was seriously hurt, but while the robbers were on the run, authorities repeatedly warned the public of the potential for deadly violence.

Kate Collins, a police officer from Prince George's, can attest to that. On May 10, 2004, she pursued the getaway van shortly after the gang robbed a Chevy Chase Bank branch on St. Barnabus Road in Temple Hills. The robbers began firing their machine guns as they sped away, shattering the van's rear window with a staccato burst in the officer's direction.

"I felt my car shake," she said.

Collins was alone in her cruiser, armed with a 9mm handgun. It wasn't a fair fight. Later, she said, police counted47 shots fired at her -- including slugs that lodged in her gas tank and in a seat eight inches away.

"I had a BB gun compared to them," she said.

The bank robbery gang was always looking to increase its arsenal, according to testimony during the trial of six of the members last year. During that trial, at the federal courthouse in Washington, a firearms expert testified that the rifles were made in Saudi Arabia and Romania.

The gang's acquisition of the weapons was detailed in testimony by two other gang members who pleaded guilty and became prosecution witnesses: Omar Holmes and Noureddine Chtaini.

In the spring of 2004, Holmes told the jury, he heard through the neighborhood grapevine that some heavy-duty weapons were available for the right price. A meeting was set up in an industrial park behind a car wash near Kenilworth Avenue in Prince George's. Several gang members, including Holmes and Chtaini, showed up in a stolen BMW, Holmes testified.

They waited. They smoked marijuana. They waited some more.

Finally, a white Crown Victoria pulled up in the deserted industrial park. Holmes recognized the driver as an old school friend.

"I didn't know he was the guy, but when I found out it was him I talked to him for a little while," Holmes testified. "He told me he was in the Army and he went to Iraq and all that type stuff."

They walked around to the back of the car and pulled an Army backpack out of the trunk. Inside were five assault weapons: four AK-47s and a World War II-style submachine gun with a banana clip, Holmes testified. One of the AK-47s was chrome-plated; another came with a bayonet. Others had wooden handles, he said.

Chtaini testified that the gang test-fired three of the weapons in the parking lot that night. Police said they later found dozens of shell casings at the site.

"We didn't test-fire the chrome one because the other three were fully automatic and that's what -- you know, that's what we were looking for," Holmes testified.

Holmes was sentenced to 51 months in prison for various crimes tied to the gang, and Chtaini is serving a 14-year term.

Soldiers historically have brought back souvenirs of faraway battles. Gary D. Solis, a former Marine Corps judge who teaches military law, said that as a company commander in Vietnam, he knew of a fellow officer who mailed a gun home to the U.S. piece by piece.

"What is disturbing is not just the onesies and twosies, but the guys who do it for commercial purposes or do it on a scale that is dangerous," Solis said.

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johnsonrlp
July 16, 2006, 01:56 PM
It's a good thing she only had a 9mm. An AR or Mini might of scared somebody. Wouldn't want that you know.

sm
July 16, 2006, 01:59 PM
I smell a rat.

Interesting timing this article comes out after the UN back-peddles on their position on small arms control in US. The US "clarifies" position to UN, All the "crime emergency " in DC and...

*sniff* I smell more than one rat.

We have the Wars on " [ ]" and everybody wants a budget increase because ...because...

"He who does the best posturing - gets the biggest budget increase"
"Remember Waco!"

I will state it again, as I did recently over at TFL. MSM and now it seems Fox is going thru something...

Indoctrinate .

Makes sense since Roberta X clued us in on "news is just a filler for the ad dollars and ratings game".

Might as well Indoctrinate and play the brainwash game here at home to a new level - worked abroad for the US, and ...

I do not personally own a TV, don't want one.

I smell a lot of rats on this "news".


Steve

Preacherman
July 16, 2006, 02:13 PM
Well, speaking purely theoretically and hypothetically, of course . . .

I understand that it's a lot easier to smuggle back a receiver, rather than a complete weapon. Until earlier this year, AK parts kits were freely available, so that a full-auto AK receiver could be used to assemble a full-auto AK with ease. I also understand that a lot of AK receivers can fit into a surprisingly small space.

Of course, I wasn't there myself, and I would never do such a thing - these are just reports I've heard.

skidmark
July 16, 2006, 02:16 PM
The Governor of Virginia just finished a meeting with the Mayor of DC and the Governor of Maryland. It ended with them all smiling and shaking hands.

I guess that one of the results of the meeting was that there would be no more accusations that all the guns used in crimes in DC and Maryland were bought and smuggled in from Virginia? [/saecasm]

Alternatively, this is a great ploy to use for getting the US out of wherever we are currently - oh, yea, Iraq. War is bad, and the guns used in war make the soldiers become bad persons - even to the extent of bringing back one or more bad guns. [/sacrasm again]

I did enjoy the comments about how difficult it is to pin the importation on any specific person, even if they have at most a few hundred (an Army MP company) to wade through in figuring it out. Reminds me of the cannon-cockers who rode the ship home with us from Vietnam. Stateside inspection turned up tubes stuffed breech to muzzle with Thai pot, but nobody would claim the stuff and "because" everybody on the ship had access to the hold where the guns were, "anybody" could have done it. On the other hand, the cryptographic vans had security seals and were not opened for inspection - that was a shame cause a van holds a lot more than a cannon tube :evil: .

stay safe.

skidmark

whm1974
July 16, 2006, 02:24 PM
I understand that it's a lot easier to smuggle back a receiver, rather than a complete weapon.

It would be just as easy to smuggle underfolders as well. Or remove the stock.

I'm wondering about the legality on ammo and mags soldiers might bring back.

-Bill

johnsonrlp
July 16, 2006, 02:25 PM
It would be very easy to smuggle in anything smaller than a camel.

johnsonrlp
July 16, 2006, 02:35 PM
When I was on a personel baggage detail (post deployment) we had one SM who couldn't find her issued M9 to turn it in. It was finally found in her backpack, on the tarmack of Wheeler Army Airfield in Hawaii. Imagine how easy grenades would be.:fire:

El Tejon
July 16, 2006, 03:09 PM
I know this article to be a lie as I have read right here on THR that no weapons are being brought back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is no smuggling ongoing, e.g. there are no coffins full of firearms being brought back into the CONUS. Remain calm--we have assumed control, we have assumed control.

carebear
July 16, 2006, 03:10 PM
For the bank robbers, who wore body armor with ceramic plates that would repel rifle fire, getting the machine guns gave them firepower rarely associated with holdups. Assault-type weapons can be purchased legally in the United States, but only in a semiautomatic version, meaning one squeeze of the trigger fires one round. A fully automatic assault rifle, which can fire continuously when the trigger is held down, is considered a machine gun and is restricted under federal law.

Let's give the reporter Weiss and whoever he got his info from some props for this paragraph.

The bold section directly contradicts the usual "full auto's are flooding the streets" BS and the underlined portion gives a very clear and true difference between real FA's and their legal status (restricted, not illegal) and legal semi-auto "assault-type" versions.

This ain't bad gun reporting.

DoubleTapDrew
July 16, 2006, 03:49 PM
Let's give the reporter Weiss and whoever he got his info from some props for this paragraph.
I noticed that too. It's refreshing to see a journalist that actually did their homework instead of the ususal inaccurate drivel.
Does this solidify the brady bunch's position that only military and police should have guns because they are trained and trustworthy? :rolleyes:

beerslurpy
July 16, 2006, 04:10 PM
I dont honestly see a legislative solution to all of this. Everything these guys are doing is completely illegal from beginning to end. It isnt like they are cleverly skirting the boundaries of illegality like some guy evading tax.

My preferred solution:
-get rid of the gun laws and spend more effort catching people who rob banks. The problem isnt that a civilian possessed a machine gun, the problem is that a bank robber did. I bet 100 percent of the people that could be trusted to safely have any gun could be trusted with a machine gun. A bank robber will be dangerous with or without machine guns.
Another possible solution:
-waste lots of time hassling the 99.9999 percent of servicemen who arent smuggling weapons to catch maybe a few percent more of the smuggled guns.
An even worse solution:
-stop fighting wars overseas, disband the military and disarm the police so that no police or military firearms ever get on the black market. Of course, then we would be in the same boat as england, where the firearms come from the black market for narcotics.

Langenator
July 16, 2006, 11:52 PM
Actually Preacherman, I've always figured that the only parts you'd really need to smuggle back are the fire control group. You can buy the aforementioned parts kits here quite cheap, and buy undrilled receiver flats and put the holes in the places appropriate for the full auto FCG, instead of the semi.

And the easiest place to smuggle the FCG parts would be in the unit maintenance sections cases of spare parts. Even if the parts connexes are inspected, there's literally thousands of small parts, and how many inspectors know what they're looking for?

The article mentioned that the suspected smuggler came back from Iraq 2 years ago, meaning he went over very early in the campaign. It was probably easier to pull something like this off at that time than it would be now. The simple reason for that is that now, captured weapons are evidence-assuming the bad guys are captured and not killed-and evidence has to be accounted for. Even if all the BGs are KIA, the weapons get accounted for. This makes it tougher for Pvt Gangsta to stuff a few in his duffle. This wasn't necessarily the case in the opening portion of the campaign.

johnsonrlp
July 17, 2006, 12:24 AM
They don't check everything. It would have been a lot easier when they checked nothing.

Erebus
July 17, 2006, 01:55 PM
Collins was alone in her cruiser, armed with a 9mm handgun. It wasn't a fair fight. Later, she said, police counted47 shots fired at her -- including slugs that lodged in her gas tank and in a seat eight inches away.

I can't help but wonder if there is dashcam footage of them shooting at her. I think seeing it would give an idea what it's like to have someone open up on you with an FA without the danger of getting killed.

So glad she wasn't hit.

spend more effort catching people who rob banks. The problem isnt that a civilian possessed a machine gun, the problem is that a bank robber did.

Maybe if we have a public lynching of the AKs it will scare all the other AKs out there to stay out of our country! After all we all know that if it wasn't for the influence of those aweful AKs those boys would have been at church praying.[/sarcasm]

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