TUCSON, Ariz. – Four Arizona residents have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms for their role in a scheme to illegally export weapons and ammunition to Hong Kong, following a multiagency probe that included U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Peter Steve Plesinger, 55, of Sahuarita, and Stephen Edward Smith, 63, of Tucson, were sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge James A. Soto. Plesinger received a term of 87 months. Smith was sentenced to 102 months in prison. Both men had previously pleaded guilty to exporting munitions to Hong Kong, dealing firearms without a license, and money laundering. Two other defendants, Irina Cvetkovic and Earl Richmond, both of Sahuarita, were charged and convicted for lessor roles in the conspiracy.
In 2014, law enforcement authorities in Hong Kong intercepted a package containing 139 rounds of ammunition that had been shipped from Arizona by Plesinger. A search of the intended recipient’s Hong Kong residence resulted in the recovery of three rifles, two pistols, four rifle barrels, a silencer, and at least 9,000 rounds of ammunition. Further investigation revealed Plesinger had previously shipped those items to Hong Kong in packages with innocuous labels. Additionally, investigators determined Plesinger had been paid at least $64,500 to ship large quantities of firearms, ammunition, and silencers to Hong Kong, and that Smith had been paid at least $59,550 for making similar shipments.
“The sentences imposed in this case should send a strong message to those who would consider illegally exporting firearms, ammunition, or silencers to other countries,” stated Acting United States Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange. “We will continue to work diligently with our national and international partners to vigorously investigate and prosecute such conduct.”
“I wish to compliment the tenacity of the ATF agents and prosecuting attorneys who brought this case to a successful conclusion,” said ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Mark Murray. “Our agents left no stone unturned as they doggedly pursued these criminals and brought them to justice. ATF will continue our role in enforcing violations of the federal firearms and explosives laws both domestically and in this case internationally.”
In addition to HSI, other agencies involved in the probe included the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection (Los Angeles); the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department; the Hong Kong Police Force; and the Hong Kong Department of Justice. The prosecution was handled by Tucson-based Assistant U.S. Attorneys Serra M. Tsethlikai and Angela Martinez, with substantial assistance from the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.