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Press Release

Former Special Forces Sergeant Sentenced To 24 Months’ Imprisonment For International Arms Smuggling

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Defendant, A Former Marine, Supplied Semi-Automatic Weapons For Export To China

Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Joseph Debose, a resident of North Carolina and a former United States Marine and Staff Sergeant in a U.S. Special Forces National Guard Unit, was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment for violating the Arms Export Control Act.  Debose 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 dozens of semi-automatic handguns, rifles and shotguns.

The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York;  John Carlin, Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice; James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York; Joseph Anarumo, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), New York Field Division; Toni Weirauch, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), New York Field Office; and Sidney Simon, Special Agent-in-Charge, Department of Commerce (DOC), Office of Export Enforcement, New York Field Office.

“Through his service in the U.S. Marine Corps and National Guard, the defendant swore an oath to this country and its people, and was decorated.  He then traded the honor which won him medals for the easy money of illegal arms sales,” stated U.S. Attorney Lynch.  “We take very seriously our responsibility to stem the flow of illegal weapons through New York and ensure our national security.  This case demonstrates the tremendous effectiveness and determination of the multiple federal law enforcement agencies tasked with taking on this global challenge.”  Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the federal agencies that worked closely together to investigate the case.

The sentence was imposed by United States District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano.  In addition to the 24 months in prison, Judge Vitaliano imposed a term of three years of supervised release.  To date, four individuals have been convicted of weapons trafficking and export offenses in connection with this case. 

Authorities initially learned of the arms smuggling scheme in August 2011 after counter-smuggling officers in China seized a package containing firearms with defaced serial numbers, which had been shipped from Queens, New York.  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 included by the President of the United States on the United States Munitions List, and may not be exported without a license from the U.S. State Department.  Using forensic techniques, agents determined that one of the weapons seized in China had originally been purchased in North Carolina.  Agents then traced that gun, and others, to Debose.  Agents also learned that Debose had filed a false police report, in which he claimed the weapons had been stolen from his garage.  Agents arrested Debose in a sting operation when he arrived at a meeting location with a truckload of guns for the next shipment.  At the time of his arrest, Debose was a staff sergeant assigned to a Special Forces National Guard unit based in West Virginia. 

The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seth DuCharme, with assistance from Trial Attorney David Recker of the Department of Justice Counterespionage Section.  Assistance also was provided by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Northern District of West Virginia and the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The Defendant

Age: 30

Updated September 2, 2016

Firearms Offenses