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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit

Brothers arrested in illegal arms export scheme

NEW YORK — Federal agents arrested two brothers, both of whom worked for law enforcement agencies, Thursday for conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act by exporting high-powered weapons from the United States to the Philippines. The investigation leading to the arrests was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

Rex Maralit, 44, is a New York City police officer; and Wilfredo Maralit, 48, is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer assigned to Los Angeles International Airport. A third Maralit brother, Ariel, 43, is also charged in the case. The government is coordinating with foreign authorities regarding the apprehension of Ariel Maralit in the Philippines.

According to the complaint, between January 2009 and March 2013, the defendants engaged in a scheme to smuggle high-powered assault rifles, sniper rifles, pistols and firearm accessories from the United States to the Philippines, where they were sold to overseas customers. Ariel Maralit, who resides in the Philippines, identified customers and sought the assistance of his brothers, both American law enforcement officers, to purchase and ship the weapons for resale overseas. In response to customer orders from the Philippines, the defendants located weapons advertised on firearms-brokering websites and made arrangements to purchase the guns through dealers in the United States. They then disassembled the weapons and smuggled them out of the United States in disguised shipments.

According to the complaint, none of the defendants obtained export licenses or federal firearms licenses in connection with the weapons they sold. Instead, they used their knowledge of firearms and their status as law enforcement officers to engage in an illegal international arms trafficking business. On several occasions, the defendants used their law enforcement credentials to obtain discounts on weapons from U.S.-based gun dealers. For example, in an email dated June 21, 2012, Rex Maralit asked a U.S.-based gun dealer whether the dealer had a Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle ("SCAR") in stock. Upon learning that the dealer had such a weapon available, Rex Maralit requested that the dealer hold the high-powered assault rifle until the following Monday, adding, "One other question do you give discounts to LEO, I am an active PO with the NYPD, please advise." "LEO" is a common abbreviation for "Law Enforcement Officer," and "PO" refers to "Police Officer."

The powerful and dangerous firearms that the defendants illegally exported and sold include the Barrett M82A1 .50 caliber semi-automatic rifle, the SCAR, and the FN Herstal 5.7mm semi-automatic pistol. For example, the Barrett M82A1 .50 caliber semi-automatic rifle is a long-range, weapon capable of penetrating body armor, exterior walls of buildings, and even aircraft. The Barrett rifle is favored by specialized military forces due to its extraordinary power and range. The SCAR is a military rifle designed in 2004 at the request of the United States Special Operations Command for a new family of assault rifles to be used by U.S. Special Forces. The FN Herstal 5.7mm semi-automatic pistol is a high-capacity, battlefield weapon capable of firing a projectile that can penetrate body armor.

The Arms Export Control Act requires exporters of firearms to first obtain the approval of the United States State Department before shipping weapons overseas. The United States Munitions List requires export licenses for firearms such as the military-style assault rifles, sniper rifles, and semi-automatic handguns allegedly exported by the defendants. Similarly, dealing in firearms is regulated by the ATF, which requires gun dealers to first obtain a federal firearms license before engaging in such a business.

"As alleged, rather than upholding and enforcing the law as they had sworn to do, these defendants made international gunrunning a family business. The brothers used their knowledge of the law to circumvent it, and sent dangerous weapons overseas without regard for the ultimate destination or targets," stated U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch. "Criminal conduct by police officers, federal agents, and their confederates cannot be tolerated and will be met with the full force of the law."

Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to HSI, DCIS, ATF and the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau, which worked closely together to investigate the case, and to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey for their assistance.

"The defendants are alleged to have illegally exported some of the world's most powerful firearms with complete disregard as to whom the end user would be," said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. "HSI and our law enforcement partners both locally and around the globe are committed to upholding the exportation laws of the United States to ensure that these deadly weapons do not end up in the wrong hands."

DCIS Special Agent in Charge Craig W. Rupert stated, "As alleged, the trafficking in weapons from the U.S. to foreign entities in violation of U.S. law is a wholly unacceptable crime, but when committed by trusted civil servants charged with public safety, the crime is even more deplorable. DCIS, the law enforcement arm of the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Defense, is dedicated to preventing the exportation of controlled U.S. military technology and to exposing U.S. public servants who violate their oath and the public trust. The DCIS New York Resident Agency and our partner agencies are commended for their continuing dedication to this pursuit."

ATF New York Special Agent in Charge Joseph Anarumo Jr. stated, "The alleged criminal acts carried out by these defendants, including two law enforcement officers, are reprehensible and inexcusable. We must not allow the public trust and confidence in those sworn to protect and serve our communities to be compromised. By allegedly misusing their positions as sworn officers of the law in an ill-conceived scheme to illegally acquire and traffic firearms, now, the sad irony is that the laws once enforced by these defendants will be the very same laws used to prosecute them."

"The vast majority of police officers do outstanding work to protect New York City and a case like this is disheartening to the entire department," New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. "The experienced personnel assigned to our Internal Affairs Bureau engaged in an in-depth investigation and worked closely with all of the outside agencies involved."

At sentencing, the defendants face up to 5 years in prison on each charge, forfeiture, and a fine of up to $250,000.

The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth DuCharme and Sam Nitze, with assistance from Trial Attorney David Recker of the Department of Justice Counterespionage Section.

The charges contained in the complaint are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.