Connecticut gun manufacturer Stag plead guilty today to violating federal law, including the loss of 200 firearms from its record books, and the possession of 62 machine guns or receivers for machine guns not registered to the company. In the plea agreement that to the revocation of the company’s Federal Firearms License, owner Mark Malkowski agreed to sell Stag and never own another gun company again. The Hartford Courant reports:
HARTFORD — New Britain-based Stag Firearms LLC pleaded guilty Tuesday to violating federal firearms laws and as part of a plea agreement company president and owner Mark Malkowski agreed to sell the company and have no further ownership or management role in a gun manufacturer.
The company, with Malkowski serving as its representative, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Hartford to a single felony count of possession of a machine gun not registered to the company.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is also revoking Stag’s federal license to manufacture firearms.
Malkowski is also scheduled to plead guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New Haven to a misdemeanor count of failure to maintain firearms records.
The federal government began its investigation of Stag in July 2014, after a routine Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms inspection turned up a variety of recording keeping violations, missing firearms and unregistered firearms, the government said.
The guilty plea, Stag said in a prepared statement, was in the best interest of the company and its approximately 100 employees. Malkowski is in advanced talks with a New York private equity firm to sell the company, Stag and the government said.
“For the first time in Connecticut, and there have only been a few of these prosecutions throughout the nation, a large manufacturer is pleading guilty to a felony charge relating to record keeping violations,” Connecticut U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly said Tuesday. The company will pay a fine of $500,000 as part of the plea agreement.
For his guilty plea, Malkowski, 37, will pay a $100,000 fine and will not be permitted to own, operate or manage a firearms company.
“This company did not just manufacture small firearms. They manufactured semi-automatic weapon, machine guns, assault weapons,” Daly said. “This is not an industry where sloppiness will be tolerated.”
The government said 200 firearms were stolen or lost from Stag, although there is no evidence those firearms fell into the hands of criminals or others not permitted to possess guns.
The company specifically pleaded guilty to possession of 62 machine guns and machine gun receivers that were registered to another entity or not registered at all. ATF agents found the automatic rifles and receivers at the New Britain factory during an inspection July 15, 2014.
Stag, in a statement, said the company “takes its obligations to comply with all laws and regulations very seriously and has made comprehensive changes to ensure that similar problems cannot happen again and that best compliance practices are maintained in all of its operations.”
It goes without saying that firearms manufacturers must keep absolutely watertight records, and that playing around with ‘grey areas’ of firearms law is a recipe for disaster. Whether what Stag and Malkowski were doing was willfully criminal, or just negligent, remains to be seen.
Back in May, Stag was raided by the BATFE and over 100 unmarked lower receivers were seized. The receivers were part of a batch that was not serialized within the requisite time. The BATFE also seized several computers during the raid, which likely helped lead to the plea deal reached today. The information found on those computers would have made clear discrepancies in Stag’s records to ATF auditors.