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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit

Canadian citizen pleads guilty to illegal exportation of M-4 rifle parts charges

ATLANTA - On Thursday, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), John Dennis Tan Ong, 37, of Burnaby, Canada, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act, a law designed to prohibit the export of military articles, including M-4 rifles, which are commonly used by the U.S. military.

"This case should send a message to those individuals who would attempt to profit by illegally supplying weapons to other countries," said Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Atlanta. "ICE will aggressively pursue those who violate U.S. export laws. Stopping the illegal flow of weapons across our borders is a top focus for ICE."

Ong was indicted on Aug. 17, 2010, on one count of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act, one count of attempt to violate the Arms Export Control Act, and one count of conspiracy to unlawfully transfer funds. On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act.

According to information presented in court, in early 2009, ICE HSI received information that Ong's co-conspirator was purchasing gun parts and accessories related to the M-4 rifle. Because these weapons' parts are designated on the United States munitions list, exporting them outside of the United States is prohibited by the Arms Export Control Act unless the shipper possesses an export license issued by the Department of State. Ong never applied for or obtained an export license.

During the course of the investigation, an ICE agent began to communicate with Ong's co-conspirator. Believing that he was communicating with one of his United States suppliers, the co-conspirator placed an order for gun parts capable of assembling up to ten M-4 rifles. He further requested that the items be shipped to an address located in the Philippines.

After placing the order and agreeing upon the price, the co-conspirator and the ICE agent began to discuss how the items would be shipped from the United States. The co-conspirator asked Ong if he would receive the gun parts and ship them to the Philippines. Ong, a Canadian citizen who operated an export business in California during this time, agreed to ship the items knowing the gun parts required an export license.

After receiving the money from the co-conspirator in the Philippines, Ong wired payment to the ICE agent from a bank account he previously established in the United States. He also provided a specific address to where the gun parts should be shipped. After the ICE agent expressed reluctance about mailing the parts to Ong, he advised the co-conspirator on how the ICE agent could ship the items to the Philippines without detection by customs. Ong then provided the name and location of a freight forwarding company in the Atlanta area that would accept the package without identification, and provided instructions on how the gun parts should be packed in order to avoid detection by X-ray machines or customs officials.

Ong faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.