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Firearms, Ammunition & Explosives

Former Chicago-area gun shop owner sentenced to more than 7 years for illegal firearm exports

CHICAGO - A former suburban gun shop owner who illegally exported more than 200 firearms to Canada was sentenced Thursday in federal court to 7½ years in prison. This sentence resulted from a joint investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Ugur Yildiz, aka "Mike Yildiz," 39, of Park Ridge, Ill., was sentenced Dec. 17 by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, Northern District of Illinois, to 90 months in prison for illegally exporting firearms from the U.S. to Canada without a license. He must also pay a $10,000 fine. Yildiz pleaded guilty March 20 to one count of violating the Arms Export Control Act.

According to plea agreement, Yildiz obtained a Federal Firearms License to sell guns in 2002 and operated Chicagoland Bells, a gun shop located at 3319 North Manheim Rd., in Franklin Park, Ill. In 2003, ATF revoked his license after discovering more than 500 violations of the Gun Control Act. At the time the license was revoked, the gun shop had an inventory in excess of 200 firearms, and Yildiz transferred ownership and registration of 207 firearms from Chicagoland Bells into his name. Those guns remain registered to Yildiz.

Since June 2006, Canadian law enforcement has recovered 35 guns in Canada that are registered to Yildiz. All but one were recovered in connection with criminal activity, including drug and violent crimes. Several guns were recovered in connection with shootings. One gun was recovered after the offender pointed it at the arresting officers; and one gun has been preliminarily traced to a homicide in Canada, according to court documents. In addition to the weapons found in Canada, on April 30, 2006, 15 firearms registered to Yildiz were discovered in a dumpster in a suburb of Detroit, not far from the Canadian border.

Yildiz admitted that between April and June 2006 he entered Canada multiple times at the Detroit Ambassador Bridge. On one occasion he illegally transported more than 200 firearms into Canada in his car without the required government license to export firearms.

The Arms Export Control Act prohibits exportation of defense articles, including certain firearms, without a license from the State Department. Most, if not all, of the firearms registered to Yildiz fall within the designation of defense articles.

"This investigations shows firsthand how illegally exported guns end up in the hands of criminals who commit violent crimes," said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton. "We routinely partner with local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies to target individuals and criminal organization, and interdict these illegally trafficked weapons."

"One of the primary law enforcement missions of ATF is to interdict the illegal trafficking of firearms that fuels ongoing violence, which does not stop at our borders" said Andrew L. Traver, special agent in charge of ATF's Chicago Field Division. "Of equivalent importance is our partnership with ICE, created to intercept and dismantle the illicit trafficking of crime guns across our nation's borders to the north and south, to halt the unwanted exportation of firearms violence."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheri Mecklenburg, Northern District of Illinois, successfully prosecuted this case. ICE and ATF were assisted in the investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration.