Harley Clifford Combres Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings, on June 30, 2011, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, HARLEY CLIFFORD COMBRES, a 28-year-old resident of Canada, pled guilty to attempted illegal export of firearms. Sentencing has been set for September 14, 2011. He is currently detained.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paulette L. Stewart, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On March 26, 2011, COMBRES and Caley Sinclair were arrested in Billings with 12 handguns. COMBRES and Sinclair planned to take the 12 firearms back to Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
The investigation revealed that Sinclair legally passed into the United States through the Port of Piegan on March 25, 2011. COMBRES, who is excluded from the United States due to his extensive Canadian criminal history, circumvented the port and walked into the United States. Sinclair dropped off COMBRES on the Canadian side of the border and picked him up on the United States side of the border. Sinclair and COMBRES then traveled to Lewistown where COMBRES purchased one handgun. Sinclair and COMBRES then traveled to Billings where they stayed the night.
On March 26, 2011, Sinclair and COMBRES attended a gun show in Billings. They purchased a total of 11 handguns throughout the day - Sinclair held the money and transported some of the handguns to their vehicle while COMBRES did the actual firearms purchasing. During his purchasing of the handguns at the gun show, COMBRES remained in constant contact with another individual in this case ("SAL"). COMBRES and SAL traded numerous picture and text messages during this time. SAL would approve or order certain handguns. Law enforcement officers arrested Sinclair and COMBRES that day and recovered the 12 handguns after receiving consent to search their vehicle and their cell phones.
The investigation revealed that Sinclair and COMBRES planned to return to Canada the same way they entered the United States: Sinclair would drop off COMBRES before reaching the border, Sinclair would legally return to Canada, COMBRES would illegally walk into Canada with the handguns in a backpack, and Sinclair would pick up COMBRES in Canada. The investigation also revealed that their trip to Billings was not their first trip into the United States to purchase handguns and take them illegally into Canada.
A person wanting to export handguns into Canada must obtain an export license and fill out proper paperwork. Neither Sinclair nor COMBRES had obtained a license or filled out the proper paperwork to export handguns.
Sinclair pled guilty to federal charges and is awaiting sentencing.
COMBRES faces possible penalties of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Homeland Security Investigations, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.