U.S. Customs Intercepts Barrett .50cal, Other Guns and Ammo on Venezuela-bound Private Jet

    Image Source: US Customs and Border Protection Media Relations

    Image Source: US Customs and Border Protection Media Relations

    ATF hilariously absent…

    A couple of Venezuelan pilots packing a Barrett M107A1 along with 81 other firearms, 63,000 rounds of ammunition, a suppressor, armor, and over $20,000 in U.S. currency were intercepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.  On Saturday, August 15th, agents at the airport boarded and inspected the Venezuelan-registered aircraft, which had filed false flight plans from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  This aircraft was already suspect to “U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Air and Marine Operations (AMO) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and CBP’s Office of Field Operations (OFO)”.

    Pulling a fast one, but not fast enough

    When taxiing for takeoff, the Learjet 55B was referred to the customs area for an inspection.  Instead of proceeding to the customs area, the pilot took the aircraft back to the FBO, and drove his ground vehicle over to the customs area instead. In the meantime, his co-pilot was trying to get ground crew to get the aircraft unloaded of the illicit cargo. An FAA agent arrived first and tried to question the Co-pilot in Spanish, but the co-pilot kept responding he didn’t speak English. Back at the FBO hangar, customs agents arrived and witnessed, among other things, the Barrett M107A1 being offloaded from the aircraft. Having seen enough, the officers ceased the offload and boarded the aircraft which was:

    …fully loaded, from the cockpit, back to the lavatory with cases and boxes of weapons, ammunition, and household goods.

    The pilots, both Venezuelan nationals, were summarily charged with “alien in possession of firearms”, “smuggling goods from the United States, and “bulk cash smuggling out of the United States.  The co-pilot waived his Miranda rights and admitted to agents that the real destination of the aircraft was indeed Venezuela. Furthermore, he also admitted to purchasing the firearms and ammunition, per the direction of the pilot, from retail and private party sales over the course of three months while renting an apartment in Coral Springs with the pilot. How non-resident Venezuelan nationals acquired these firearms is unclear. Officers from CBP’s OFO, HSI, and the FAA found the Learjet packed full of the firearms. Once the jet was flagged for a customs inspection, agents found ground crew removing cargo from the aircraft. The Pilots were none too discreet in how the packed the jet, either. According to the affidavit filed by CBP:

    CBP officers observed that the aircraft was fully loaded, from the cockpit back to the lavatory, with cases and boxes of weapons, ammunition and household goods

    A breakdown of the guns:

    Unfortunately, the indictment does not have an itemized list of evidence seized.  However, a quick glance at the low-res photo reveals;

    • Barrett M107A1
    • bolt action rifle
    • several AR15’s
    • some PCCs or SBRs
    • Ruger pistol
    • Smith and Wesson M&P
    • H&K VP9SK
    • FN Pistols, Including an FNP-45
    • More Glocks than James Reeves’ briefcase, (around 20 by my count, including some HGFC worthy paint jobs)

    According to the indictment, their official inventory was:

    18 assault/bolt action rifles with optics, six shotguns, 58 semi-automatic pistols

    Or, in other words, the average collection of any freedom loving American.

    Note: Alien in possession of firearms refers to:

    Title18,United States Code, Section922(g)(5), in pertinent part, makes it a crime for an alien who has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa to (i)ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, any firearm or ammunition;(i) possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; and(i)receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate commerce.

    Sources:

    HSI Criminal Complaint

    CBP Media Releases

    AP News

    Rusty S.

    Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


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