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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Vermont

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Quebec Man Sentenced to 51 Months Imprisonment for Smuggling Over 100 Handguns From Vermont to Quebec

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated today that Alexis Vlachos, 41, of Montreal, Quebec, was sentenced today in United States District Court by Judge William K. Sessions III to 51 months imprisonment for smuggling of over 100 handguns from Vermont to Quebec. Vlachos previously pled guilty to conspiring to export, and actually exporting, firearms from the United States to Canada, without a license, in violation of the Arms Control Export Act.

As part of his guilty plea, Vlachos agreed to the following facts: From July 2010 to April 2011, Vlachos and other persons, including defendants Annette Wexler and Jaime Ruiz, executed a plan to smuggle over 100 handguns, purchased in Florida, to Quebec, Canada, by way of northern Vermont and northeast New York. As part of this conspiracy, Annette Wexler and another coconspirator purchased these handguns from multiple federally licensed firearms dealers in the Tampa, Florida area. At the time of purchasing these firearms at the gun stores, Wexler and a coconspirator made multiple misrepresentations about the nature of these purchases on forms required by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
 
After purchasing these firearms, Annette Wexler, Jaime Ruiz, and another coconspirator transported these firearms to Quebec through northeastern Vermont and northeastern New York. As part of the conspiracy, Vlachos would usually take custody of the firearms in Quebec, where he sold many of them.

Some of the firearms smuggled into Quebec were first brought to the Haskell Free Library in Derby Line, Vermont by Annette Wexler and Jaime Ruiz. The Haskell Free Library building straddles the international border of Derby Line, Vermont and Stanstead, Quebec.

On at least two occasions, in about March of 2011, Annette Wexler and Jaime Ruiz worked together to stash several firearms contained in small backpacks inside the trashcan of the library bathroom. Wexler then coordinated with Vlachos, who had entered the library from Quebec, to retrieve the firearms from the bathroom. Vlachos then transported the firearms to Quebec, where he sold many of them.

In April 2011, a coconspirator in Florida purchased thirty-four firearms from a federally licensed firearms dealer in the Tampa, Florida area. Vlachos and Wexler then drove these guns to a remote section of northeastern Vermont near Lake Wallace. Vlachos hiked these firearms across the international border into Quebec.

This conspiracy involved the smuggling of at least 104 handguns from the United States to Canada. Neither Vlachos, nor any of the others involved in these offenses, obtained a license from the United States Department of State prior to exporting these handguns to Canada. 

Annette Wexler previously pled guilty to conspiring to make false statements to licensed gun dealers and unlawful exportation. On July 25, 2017, United States District Judge J. Garvan Murtha sentenced Wexler to time-served and two years of supervised release. Ruiz also pled guilty to two offenses relating to this smuggling conspiracy but, due to his death by illness, the charges against him were dismissed.
 
Vlachos was originally charged with these offenses in January 2015 but the process of extraditing him to the United States took over two years to complete. Vlachos faced a maximum possible term of imprisonment of twenty years.

U.S. Attorney Christina E. Nolan praised the multiagency investigation that led to the conviction of Vlachos.  She stated:  “Because Canadian and U.S. law enforcement agencies joined forces to conduct a thorough investigation and secure this conviction, a dangerous gun trafficker with a long criminal history is off the street and innocent Canadians and Americans are safer.  This is an outstanding example of how we work as a cross-border law enforcement community with our partners in Quebec and support each other as we strive to secure justice and safer communities for our citizens.” 

“Swanton Sector Border Patrol depends on the close and continued collaboration with our federal, state, local, tribal and international law enforcement partners to accomplish its mission to secure the border,” said Swanton Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent Robert Garcia.  “The country and border community is a safer place thanks to the hard work of all the partner agencies involved in this investigation.”

“Homeland Security Investigations is proud to stand with our domestic and foreign law enforcement partners in stemming the flow of cross-border arms trafficking,” said Peter C. Fitzhugh Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Boston. “This investigation and the resulting prison sentence should be a clear indication of HSI’s commitment to disrupting and dismantling Transnational Criminal Organizations, both domestic and abroad.”
 
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Perella. Vlachos is represented by Paul Volk, Esq. of Burlington. This case was jointly investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the United States Border Patrol. In addition, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Surete du Quebec provided assistance in this investigation.

Topic(s): 
Firearms Offenses
Component(s): 
Updated September 4, 2018