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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit

Former soldier pleads guilty to violations of the Arms Export Control Act

NEW YORK — A North Carolina man and a former staff sergeant with U.S. Special Forces, National Guard Unit, pleaded guilty Thursday to violating the Arms Export Control Act. This event comes as a result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); Internal Revenue Service; and the Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement.

According to court documents, Joseph Debose, 29, provided multiple shipments of firearms to co-conspirators who then secreted the weapons in packages and transported them to shipping companies to be sent to customers in China. The weapons included numerous semiautomatic handguns, rifles and shotguns. When sentenced, Debose faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Authorities initially learned of the arms smuggling scheme after police in China seized a package containing firearms with defaced serial numbers, which had been shipped from Queens, N.Y.

Upon learning of the seizure of the weapons, U.S. law enforcement officials traveled to China to examine the evidence. The types of weapons seized by the Chinese authorities have been designated by the president of the United States on the U.S. Munitions List, and may not be exported without a license from the U.S. State Department.

With the aid of forensic techniques, officers determined that one of the weapons seized in China had originally been purchased in North Carolina. Officers then traced that gun, and others, to Debose.

Officers arrested Debose in a sting operation when he arrived at a meeting location with a truckload of guns for the next shipment. Debose was carrying a loaded .45 caliber pistol at the time of his arrest.

To date, four individuals have been charged with weapons trafficking and export offenses as a result of this investigation.