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November 6, 2013Newark, NJ, United StatesFirearms, Ammunition and Explosives, Cyber Crimes

New Hampshire man arrested, charged in N.J. for illegal weapons sales on underground online marketplace

NEWARK, N.J. — A New Hampshire man was arrested in Hampton, N.H., on charges that he illegally trafficked firearms through New Jersey on an underground, Internet-based marketplace known as "Black Market Reloaded (BMR)."

The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark and Boston. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Hampshire and the Hampton (N.H.) Police Department assisted in the investigation.

Matthew Crisafi, 38, of Hampton, was arrested by HSI special agents on a federal criminal complaint charging him with three counts: the unlicensed sale of firearms; smuggling of firearms from the United States to an overseas destination; and conspiring to commit money laundering in connection with firearms trafficking activities.

Crisafi, the owner of an independent trucking company in New Hampshire, was scheduled for an initial appearance and bail hearing Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Lynch, in Concord, N.H. federal court. He will be brought to New Jersey to appear in Newark federal court on a date to be determined.

"Today's arrest is a testament to the strong working relationships HSI has forged with our numerous law enforcement partners," said Andrew McLees, special agent in charge of HSI Newark. "People who think they can hide behind a veil of an "underground" website to buy and sell weapons illegally are mistaken – HSI will use all of our collective resources to track you down and bring you to justice."

"International arms trading and other crimes are just as dangerous whether deals are made in person or through anonymous computer networks and currencies," said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, District of New Jersey. "Online black market sellers should take note: we aren't just targeting the administrators of these sites, which can pop up again elsewhere. If you buy or sell illegal goods on an underground marketplace, law enforcement is watching."

According to court documents, in April 2013 HSI special agents conducted an undercover investigation of illicit sales activity on BMR. The website provides a platform for vendors and buyers to conduct anonymous online transactions involving the sale of a variety of illegal goods, including firearms, ammunition, explosives, narcotics and counterfeit items. Unlike mainstream e-commerce websites, BMR is only accessible via the Tor network – a special computer network designed to enable users to conceal their identities and locations. Transactions on BMR are conducted using Bitcoin, an anonymous, decentralized form of electronic currency that only exists online.

During the investigation, HSI learned that Crisafi maintained a seller's profile on BMR to advertise the illegal sale of firearms and ammunition. Over a period of approximately three months, Crisafi negotiated with an undercover officer – whom he believed was an international purchaser of firearms – to sell a number of semi-automatic handguns and rifles, including a Smith & Wesson Model Bodyguard .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun; a Glock Model 26, 9 mm caliber semi-automatic handgun; a KelTec Model P32, .32 caliber semi-automatic handgun; a NORINCO SKS 7.62 semi-automatic rifle; an AR-15 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and others. In all, Crisafi sold multiple firearms to the undercover officer, valued by law enforcement to be worth more than $11,000 on the black market.

Crisafi shipped the firearms in packages containing suitcases through the U.S. Postal Service. Several of the weapons Crisafi sold were sent to the undercover officer through a location in New Jersey, where they were seized by law enforcement officials.

A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.