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Press Release

Port St. Lucie Resident Sentenced to More Than 12 Years in Prison for International Firearms Trafficking

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Florida

A Port St. Lucie resident was sentenced today to more than 12 years in prison for unlawfully exporting firearms, firearm accessories, and ammunition from South Florida to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Mark Selby, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI); Diane J. Sabatino, Director, Field Operation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Miami Field Office; Ari C. Shapira, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Division; and Ken J. Mascara, Sheriff, St. Lucie County Sherriff’s Office, made the announcement. 

Frederik Barbieri, 47, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and one count of unlicensed exportation of defense articles, in violation of Title 22, United States Code, Section 2778.  Today, U.S. District Court Judge Federico A Moreno sentenced Barbieri to 154 months in prison, to be followed by supervised release  In addition, Judge Moreno entered a forfeiture money judgment against Barbieri in the amount of $9.6 million, which represents proceeds from the offenses, based on 122 shipments of water heaters containing approximately 915 firearms, and 15 shipments of air conditioning units containing approximately 45 firearms, a total of 960 firearms, with a profit of approximately $10,000.00 per firearm.  Furthermore, the firearms and ammunition are subject to forfeiture.

According to stipulated facts filed in court, from May of 2013 through February of 2018, Barbieri conspired with others to: possess firearms with obliterated serial numbers; deliver packages containing those firearms to contract carriers for international shipment without providing notice that the packages contained firearms; and smuggle firearms, firearm accessories, and ammunition from the United States to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

During this period, a shipment sent by Barbieri was intercepted in Rio de Janeiro by Brazilian law enforcement and found to contain approximately thirty AR-15 and AK-47 rifles and firearm magazines, all concealed in four 38-gallon Rheem water heaters. The water heaters were hollowed out and loaded with the contraband, and the serial numbers on each of the firearms had been obliterated. The same day that Brazilian authorities intercepted his shipment, Barbieri called and requested that the freight forwarder destroy the related paperwork.

Documentation provided by the freight forwarder revealed Barbieri’s historical shipments. In addition to shipping the four Rheem water heaters in which he concealed approximately thirty rifles, Barbieri also shipped to Brazil an additional 120 Rheem water heaters, as well as 520 electric motors and 15 air conditioning units, from May of 2013 to May of 2017, using that freight forwarder. These items are all consistent with objects used to conceal the illegal international shipment of firearms and ammunition.

In February 2018, federal agents executed a warrant to search a storage unit rented by Barbieri in Vero Beach, Florida.  In the storage unit, law enforcement discovered 52 rifles, 49 of which were wrapped for shipment with obliterated serial numbers.  In addition, law enforcement discovered dozens of high capacity firearm magazines, over 2,000 rounds of ammunition, and packaging materials.  Barbieri was arrested the following day.

It is illegal for civilians to possess firearms in Brazil. According to Brazilian law enforcement, AK and AR rifles have a black market value of approximately $15,000 to $20,000. The retail cost of those firearms in the United States is approximately $700 to $1,000.

Neither Barbeiri, nor any of his coconspirators, obtained a license or written approval from the United States Department of State to export any defense articles. Non-automatic firearms, firearm accessories, and ammunition are articles designated as “defense articles,” pursuant to federal regulations.

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI, ATF, and CBP in connection with this matter.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian J. Shack. 

Related court documents and information can be found on the District Court for the Southern District of Florida’s website at or on

Updated July 19, 2018