A National Guard staff sergeant was arrested Sunday with a loaded pistol and 12 firearms that authorities say he intended to export to China.
Joseph Debose, 29, remains in custody in Raleigh, N.C. pending a removal hearing May 30 to the Eastern District of New York. According to a criminal complaint, U.S. agents tracked a shipment of seized weapons with defaced serial numbers – some of which Debose allegedly provided — back to North Carolina after it was seized by Chinese law enforcement in Shanghai.
The firearms appear on the State Department’s U.S. Munitions List. Their export without a government license is illegal.
Debose, who is a North Carolina resident and a member of a Special Forces National Guard Unit, was arrested in a sting as he prepared to smuggle more weapons, the Justice Department said in a news release.
Conspirator Zhifu Lin, 25, a Chinese national, was arraigned Thursday in Brooklyn. Lilan Li, 23, also a Chinese national, was arraigned May 2 and pleaded not guilty.
According to prosecutors, Debose provided numerous shipments of firearms to his associates between December 2010 and April 2012. These were then shipped to China in violation of the Arms Export Control Act.
Each defendant faces 20 years in prison if convicted.
In addition to violations of the Arms Export Control Act, Lin has been charged with operating an illegal firearm business and shipping firearms with defaced serial numbers.
“We will utilize all available resources to stop the export of such weapons,” said Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement. “The arrest of Debose marks the latest in a series of charges brought by this office against international gun traffickers.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme. Trial attorney David Recker of the Justice Department’s Counterespionage Section will provide assistance.