CANADIAN CITIZEN PLEADS GUILTY FOR ROLE IN ATTEMPTED EXPORT OF M-4 RIFLE PARTS
May 5, 2011
John Dennis Tan Ong Conspired With A Philippine Resident
to Smuggle Gun Parts to the Philippines
ATLANTA, GA - JOHN DENNIS TAN ONG, 37, of Burnaby, Canada, pleaded guilty today in federal district court to Conspiracy to Violate the Arms Export Control Act, a law designed to prohibit the export of military articles, including M-4 rifles, which are commonly used by U.S. Military here and overseas.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “Prosecuting these types of international weapons cases is a priority for the Justice Department and for our office. The M-4 rifle is issued to our soldiers and is a state-of-the-art weapon. The illegal export of M-4 parts allows other countries to not only learn about and benefit from the design of this weapon, but also to potentially use these effective rifles against our soldiers overseas.”
“This case should send a message to those individuals who would attempt to profit by illegally supplying weapons to other countries,” said Brock Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Atlanta. “ICE will aggressively pursue those who violate U.S. export laws. Stopping the illegal flow of weapons across our borders is a top focus for ICE.”
ONG was indicted on August 17, 2010, on one count of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act, one count of attempt to violate the Arms Export Control Act, and one count of conspiracy to unlawfully transfer funds. Today he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act. A sentencing date has not yet been set by the Court. He could receive a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: In early 2009, ICE received information that ONG's co-conspirator was purchasing gun parts and accessories related to the M-4 rifle. Because these weapons parts are designated on the United States Munitions List, exporting them outside of the United States is prohibited by the Arms Export Control Act unless the shipper possesses an export license issued by the State Department. ONG never applied for or obtained an export license.
During the course of the investigation, an ICE agent began to communicate with ONG's co-conspirator. Believing that he was communicating with one of his United States suppliers, the co-conspirator placed an order for gun parts capable of assembling up to ten M-4 rifles. He further requested that the items be shipped to an address located in the Philippines.
After placing the order and agreeing upon the price, the co-conspirator and the ICE agent began to discuss how the items would be shipped from the United States. The co-conspirator asked ONG if he would receive the gun parts and ship them to the Philippines. ONG, a Canadian citizen who operated an export business in California during this time, agreed to ship the items knowing the gun parts required an export license.
After receiving the money from the co-conspirator in the Philippines, ONG wired payment to the ICE agent from a bank account he previously established in the United States. He also provided a specific address to where the gun parts should be shipped. After the ICE agent expressed reluctance about mailing the parts to ONG, ONG advised the co-conspirator on how the ICE agent could ship the items to the Philippines without detection by U.S. Customs. ONG then provided the name and location of a freight forwarding company in the Atlanta area that would accept the package without identification, and ONG provided instructions on how the gun parts should be packed in order to avoid detection by x-ray machines or U.S. Customs agents.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Department of Homeland Security - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Counter Proliferation Group.
Assistant United States Attorney Tracia M. King and Special Assistant United States Attorney James McHenry are prosecuting the case.For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.