Prosecution of Procurement of Untraceable Suppressors Gets Wierder

The_Pentagon_US_Department_of_Defense_building

The Washington Post has been following an unusual Government procurement during the investigation and now prosecution phases. In short, a little-known program office attempted to procure suppressors from a mechanic, at quite a premium. For what would seem to be an open-and-shut case, this one is unusual:

 

The mysterious workings of a Pentagon office that oversees clandestine operations are unraveling in federal court, where a criminal investigation has exposed a secret weapons program entwined with allegations of a sweetheart contract, fake badges and trails of destroyed evidence.

Capping an investigation that began almost two years ago, separate trials are scheduled this month in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., for a civilian Navy intelligence official and a hot-rod auto mechanic from California who prosecutors allege conspired to manufacture an untraceable batch of automatic-rifle silencers.

The exact purpose of the silencers remains hazy, but court filings and pretrial testimony suggest they were part of a top-secret operation that would help arm guerrillas or commandos overseas.

The silencers — 349 of them — were ordered by a little-known Navy intelligence office at the Pentagon known as the Directorate for Plans, Policy, Oversight and Integration, according to charging documents. The directorate is composed of fewer than 10 civilian employees, most of them retired military personnel.

Court records filed by prosecutors allege that the Navy paid the auto mechanic — the brother of the directorate’s boss — $1.6 million for the silencers, even though they cost only $10,000 in parts and labor to manufacture.

However, it seems the Government may be obfuscating the procurement.

Sorting out the truth has been made more difficult by the elimination of potential evidence.

At one pretrial hearing, a defense attorney for the auto mechanic, Mark S. Landersman of Temecula, Calif., accused the Navy of impeding the investigation by destroying a secret stash of automatic rifles that the silencers were designed to fit. Prosecutors immediately objected to further discussion in open court, calling it a classified matter.

The destroyed weapons were part of a stockpile of about 1,600 AK-47-style rifles that the U.S. military had collected overseas and stored in a warehouse in Pennsylvania, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

It gets even crazier. Hit the link to see a government procurement gone awry. 



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • avg joe

    Looks like someone tried taking a page from Eric Holder.

  • C.

    Isn’t it spelled “weirder”? Don’t mean to nitpick.

    • Graham2

      off cours it is buut spellins an grammer is’nt a prority hear on the firarm blogg enymor.

      • Bubba

        God bless gubirnent skoolling.

  • Do the math

    So if my math is correct 349 suppressors for $10,000 is $28.65 each. I find it hard to believe that “they cost only $10,000 in parts and labor to manufacture”.

    • lbeacham

      You do know that there’s not much material or labor to make a suppressor, don’t you? Over 300 gets you economy of scale for the tubing and with over a million dollars for the sale, labor cost is a rounding error.

    • allannon

      I don’t, really. When you get down to it a basic suppressor isn’t a mechanically complicated item, nor does it require–if you already work in or have access to a machine shop–special or unusual tools.

    • gunslinger

      maybe it was $100k? but then 286.50 for one, may seem a bit high? what’s markup on suppressors?

      • Havok

        For a full auto rated suppressor, material cost is significantly higher than $30 per unit. Average Dealer markup on Suppressors is around 25%.

    • Mystick

      $1.6 million / 349 suppressors = $4584.53 paid each, or a reported profit margin of around 16000% at $28.65 per unit…

      $30 isn’t outside the realm of possibility for the parts and labor production cost for a simple suppressor design. The prices we see for these kind of things are artificially, heinously, inflated for many reasons. I mean, people are paying(or more accurately, offering for sale) an AR sling stud for $100, nothing more than a 2-inch forged piece of metal with a coat of fancy paint that literally takes less than a minute to make, labor-wise(per unit)…

  • Fred Johnson

    “Ordinarily, a clandestine weapons program requires reams of paper work and legal review.”

    Love that part. 🙂

    • Altoid Fiend

      Well, yes. If you’re gonna build something that violates federal law (like a suppressor with no serial) you’ll need waivers for it.
      A lot of military hardware does violate various US laws (especially on safety), and thus receive exemptions.

  • Pete

    “This is the most transparent administration in history,” President Obama said.

    • dan citizen

      racist.

      😛

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Bush’s fault.

        • avconsumer2

          You know you’re in the right place on the net when you don’t need sarcasm tags.

          • dan citizen

            I’m gonna take the high road here and reveal the truth.

            Bush’s Masonic buddies used HARP to activate the flouride in our water supply. This reacts with the chemtrails to make us obese and passive per the illuminati’s conspiracy to depopulate the world so the lizard people can take advantage of UFO technology stolen when bigfoot worked with gray aliens to build the pyramids.

          • Nicks87

            Wait a minute, I thought the Nazis stole the UFO technology and escaped to Antarctica where they are preparing for the fourth reich inside of a secret underground base. Bigfoot is just an interdimensional being that likes to perv on hunters and hikers and occasionally run out in front of cars for no reason.

          • Randy Maness

            I thought the Nazis had a secret city on the dark side of the moon where they helped the Blues fight off the Greys trying to invade the Earth in accordance to their treaty with the Lizard people?

        • Bubba

          Even more funny.

      • Bubba

        Funny.

  • lbeacham

    It’s so easy to expect our government to lie, cheat and steal these days. We assume they waste a lot, but a cover-up is always a red flag for more serious problems.

  • echelon

    I hate it when TFB posts articles like this…the “no politics, just guns” thing kind of just goes right out the window.

    Is it not the height of hypocrisy and hilarity when you think that the government makes all of their “laws” to supposedly protect us and keep us safe, but then they are breaking pretty much every single one as they deem to suit their will?

    And you can bet that this type of thing has been done repeatedly ad nauseam since governments were first cooked up. The only reason this is getting any play is because somebody blew the whistle.

    • Cymond

      This issues of procurement procedures and corruption are definitely political, and since there’s very little about guns to discuss in this article, what do we have to discuss? Yup, politics.

      • Dan

        The suppressors?

        • Rusty Shackleford

          I think he means “Knock a few hundredths off” as in buying suppressors from a manufacturer and milling off the markings to make them untraceable.

          • Cymond

            Dan was responding to me, arguing that we’re supposed to discuss “the suppresors” instead of the politics of this corruption case.

            ” borrow a legally obtained one”
            However, I think raz-0 was implying that an agency could buy a suppressor and then duplicate it using CNC machinery. If he was referring to removing serial numbers, then the agency would need more than one, and wouldn’t be able to return them to the proper owner (so not “borrowing” either).

        • Cymond

          It’s hard to discuss a generic product with no details. I guess we could rehash the discussion of the proper procedures of buying a suppressor, but it’s hard to discuss the NFA without discussing the idiocy of the NFA.

          The story just isn’t about guns, it’s about corruption and secrecy. The guns are a footnote.

      • raz-0

        Well personally, my first question after reading this is wondering why a black bag op simply couldn’t borrow a legally obtained one, knock a few hundred off in a machine shop, and at worst be explaining the purchase of CNC machining equipment rather than specific items like suppressors.

    • SD

      Are you a liberal?

      • echelon

        Are you a conservative?

        • Ethan

          Are you a pro-gun gay jewish vegan mormon with an ingrown toenail?

          Wait… this is the “Most Irrelevant Question” contest right? 😉

  • Wetcoaster

    See what happens when you get lazy and contract out instead of just sucking it up and doing the work in-house?

    I’ll bet the next family reunion between the mechanic and his brother is going to be pretty frosty – assuming both manage to stay out of the slammer.

    • dan citizen

      Hey Bro’ …How are the courthouse cafeteria donuts? I heard they have Krispy Kreme on Tuesdays.

  • Daniel

    Somehow this is George’s fault and I would also like to add that he doesn’t care about black people.

    • dan citizen

      I heard he kicked a puppy once, then ate a live kitten.

  • wildbillb

    suppressors for an AK platform? really? $10K seems kinda high for 350 cans for AKs… just wrap a rag around the end – might tighten up the accuracy even! then you can charge even more for a “suppressor accurizer awesomizer.”

    • dan citizen

      I saw a Russian integrally suppressed port firing weapon once, based on an AK. Holy cow was it quiet. It must have had 2.5 liters of internal volume. Didn’t make production, or at least not many did.

      The Russians are very good at making durable, cheap suppressors that work well enough.

      Seems like an American mechanic could cook up something pretty workable.

  • dan citizen

    This makes me proud to be an American…. Wait, no,,, the other thing. Embarrassed.

  • G0rdon_Fr33man

    A suppressor should not be restricted, so this should not be a case to begin with. And how the hel.l can manufacturers in the US justify 1200 USD price tag on a metal tube with threads?

    • Aurek Besh

      Just from the manufacturing standpoint; For a high-quality suppressor, material costs alone can be a quarter of that or more. Materials resistant to high temperatures and corrosion are very expensive, and difficult and slow to machine, using up a lot of tooling and can take hours to work with, per unit.
      Now, if it was simpler and cheaper to obtain a suppressor in the US, a lot more companies would make cheap, practically disposable suppressors and prices would be significantly lower.

      • Cymond

        Considering these suppressors were supposedly for clandestine operations, I don’t think they needed to be constructed to a high-level of quality. As you said, “cheap, practically disposable suppressors and prices would be significantly lower.” As far as we can tell, the guy making them was a car mechanic. I doubt they were comparable to something from AAC or SilencerCo.

    • Altoid Fiend

      Only a very small market for suppressors. If NFA laws were wiped out and anybody could purchase one with no more hassle than buying a flash hider, prices would drop considerably.
      The markup is to keep the business operating.

  • gggplaya

    While I agree 350 silencers don’t cost anywhere near $1.6m. They do cost way more than $10k. The labor and machines necessary to make them need to be factored in. Established manufacturers sell them for $600, so let’s say the government price for relatively low volume is $1500. That would be a $500k contract.

  • floppyscience

    Does anyone else find it strange that this guy was hired by the federal government to do something, and now the federal government is screwing him over and charging him for it?

    • Rusty Shackleford

      S.O.P.

  • Bubba

    Well, why are firearms mufflers regulated at all ? One should be able to buy the suppressor of choice at your favorite retailer. But the saga continues….fedgov regulating everything they can.

  • jimmarch

    WAIT. Hold on a sec. If a genuine government office comes to you and wants to buy something “off the books” there’s no possible way some OTHER government office can prosecute you for it. That’s the extreme definition of “entrapment”. The mechanic or whoevertheheck made these things is off the hook, plain and simple. But they’re prosecuting him?

    Something is very wrong here.

    • Cymond

      Keyword: genuine.

      While it was an actual gov’t agency, it was not an agency that was supposed to be doing this stuff. What would you do if your buddy from the local school board comes to you and asks you to make a half-dozen untraceable suppressors for “official schoolboard use”?

      How would you feel if you found out that the DMV was stockpiling suppressed automatic weapons?

      • jimmarch

        Obviously the people in this out-of-control agency need to get busted. That’s not even a question.

        The guy making/selling the parts though, that’s a different story! How is he supposed to know this GOVERNMENT OFFICE has gone off the reservation?

        • Geodkyt

          Um, it was HIS BROTHER who set him up with the ridiculously overpriced purchase order. Heck, under DoD acquisitions law, it wasn;t even a legal PO, even if the intent and price were 100% legit.

          IOW, a criminal conspiracy involving two family members plus other people, to defraud the US Government while bypassing the National Firearms Act.

        • Geodkyt

          I wonder what the kickback from the one brother (the silencer manufacturer) to the other brother (the head of the agency) was?

          Even with decent quality suppressors, there is at least $1 million to split. . .

      • Tinklebell

        If the USPS has its own police, I wouldn’t be surprised if the DMV had its own paramilitary wing…

  • Diver6106

    A lot of cowboys and pyrates out there… You want them to accomplish incredible missions and steal the goods. BUT just not in my house. Well that is a tough order, especially when they are paid so poorly.

  • Randy Maness

    You can tell this was a govt operation.
    They want to spend over $4500 per suppressor when they could buy them from an actual real professional company for less than $700 per unit.