NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Five individuals and a Nashville firearms manufacturer have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges relating to international firearms and trafficking violations of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The defendants named in the 21-count indictment unsealed Tuesday are Guy Savage, 42, a citizen of the United Kingdom; Sabre Defence Industries LLC (SDI-US), a Nashville-based arms manufacturer owned by Savage; Charles Shearon, 55, of Ashland City, Tenn., and president of SDI-US; Elmer Hill, 64, of Brentwood, Tenn., and chief financial officer of SDI-US; Michael Curlett, 44, of Hermitage, Tenn., and director of sales for SDI-US; and Arnold See Jr., 54, of Antioch, Tenn., who is the international shipping and purchasing manager of SDI-US.
Savage was arrested Tuesday in the United Kingdom by the London Metropolitan Police Service, based on the United States' request for his extradition. The remaining defendants will be issued a summons to appear in U.S. District Court in Nashville.
According to the indictment, the defendants were part of a conspiracy to illegally import and export regulated firearms and firearm components and technology to and from the United States. The indictment alleges that Savage directed the illegal activities from his personal residences in the United Kingdom, as well as from a related company owned by Savage, Sabre Defence Industries LTD (SDI-UK), which is a licensed manufacturer, distributor and importer of firearms and firearms headquartered in the United Kingdom.
"The indictment unsealed today alleges a nearly decade-long scheme to thwart U.S. import/export restrictions on firearms and their components," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer. "The defendants allegedly went to great lengths to conceal their activities and evade U.S. laws - mislabeling packages, falsifying shipping records, and maintaining a fictitious set of books and records, among other things. The illegal trade of firearms and their components poses serious risks and, as this case shows, we cannot and will not tolerate it."
"HSI is committed to bringing to justice any person or organization willing to circumvent the laws of the United States," said Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of ICE HSI in New Orleans. "The illegal import, export, and domestic sale or transfer of firearms, firearm parts, and technical data is controlled for good reason; in the wrong hands, these items could be used to harm America or its allies. Enforcing U.S. export laws is one of HSI's top priorities and we will continue to work with our law enforcement and industry partners to ensure that those who put our country at risk face appropriate consequences."
"The investigation and indictment are an excellent example of how the United States Attorney's Office, the Criminal Division, ICE HSI, ATF and international law enforcement agencies are working together to prevent firearms and firearm components from being diverted to locations around the world," said U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin. "We recognize the role that weapons play in a sometimes violent world and we will vigorously enforce the laws to prevent the illegal importation of firearms and firearm components."
The indictment alleges that each of the defendants conspired to intentionally violate the AECA by causing firearms components, which are listed as defense articles on the U.S. Munitions List (USML), to be exported from the United States to an international location without first obtaining a license or written authorization for such export from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) of the U.S. Department of State. According to the indictment, the export of defense articles, such as firearms, firearms components or other military items on the USML are strictly controlled by the AECA and regulations, known as the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The indictment alleges that the defendants had been engaged in the illegal import and export activities since at least 2003. The indictment references specific shipping documents and internal e-mail communications in which the defendants and others, including SDI-US and SDI-UK employees, conspired to illegally avoid U.S. import and export laws and regulations in order to smuggle firearm components to and from the United States by falsifying shipping records, concealing unlicensed firearms components in false bottoms of shipping cartons, and mislabeling and undervaluing shipments of firearm components to avoid scrutiny by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.
The indictment also alleges that, to accomplish their illegal activities, the defendants, along with other conspirators, used e-mail accounts and other forms of communication to communicate with each other and with other individuals located in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. According to the indictment, Savage allegedly repeatedly urged the other defendants and SDI-US employees to ship firearms components located in the United States to SDI-UK, without first obtaining an export license or permission. In addition, Savage allegedly specifically directed the employees of SDI-US to mislabel and undervalue export shipments of firearms components from the United States to SDI-UK, in order to evade the prohibitions and licensing requirements of AECA and the ITAR.
In addition, according to the indictment, the defendants used international common carriers to ship restricted defense items to and from the United States, and sought to conceal their activities by maintaining two sets of business books to record the company's accounts and balances, and its export and import activities. The indictment alleges that one set of books recorded the true transactions by SDI-US, and a second set recorded the undervalued amounts used on shipping manifests in an effort to circumvent U.S. export licensing requirements.
"The indictment and lengthy law enforcement activities in Tennessee, England and elsewhere send a clear message. ATF and our law enforcement partners will not stand for those accused of conspiring to violate the federal firearms laws and illegally importing/exporting weapons, components and other items of their choice," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Glenn Anderson. "The risk is too great. Crime and the potential for violence around any corner knows no border or boundary. Today, two countries and countless neighborhoods, both foreign and domestic, are much better off."
Each count of violating the AECA carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The conspiracy and making false statements charges each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty, if convicted of wire and mail fraud, is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count. Finally, the smuggling goods from the United States charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The indictment was the result of an investigation conducted by ICE HSI and ATF, with assistance from the London Metropolitan Police Service, International Assistance Unit.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John K. Webb of the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney John S. Han of the Criminal Division's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section. Additional assistance was provided by the Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs and the National Security Division.
An indictment is merely an accusation and each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless they are proven guilty.