Austin Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Firearms Smuggling Scheme
In Austin today, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman sentenced 28–year–old Austin resident Tyler Carlson to 70 months imprisonment followed by two years of supervised release for his role in a firearms smuggling scheme involving machineguns and assault weapons, announced U.S. Attorney John F. Bash; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge Fred J. Milanowski, Houston Division; Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden; and, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez, Houston Division.
On April 23, 2018, Carlson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate multiple U.S. laws, including illegal exportation of munitions and unlawful possession and transfer of machineguns. Carlson also pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a machinegun.
According to court documents, Carlson conspired with others to violate multiple federal firearms laws, including possessing and transferring unregistered machineguns and unlawfully exporting firearms to Mexico. Carlson worked with others to acquire and unlawfully smuggle 200 firearms, including .50 caliber rifles, and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition to Mexico.
Court documents also reflect that Carlson worked with 69–year–old former law enforcement officer and federal firearms licensee Michael Fox of Georgetown, TX, to illegally acquire multiple M-134G Minigun machineguns. The M-134G is a six-barrel rotary machine gun that can fire between 2,000 and 6,000 rounds of ammunition per minute. Fox, a co-defendant, contacted 63–year–old Tracy Garwood, another co-defendant and owner of the M-134G manufacturer Garwood Industries in Arizona, who agreed to help with the construction and supply Fox with M-134G parts. Records indicated that Garwood did not know the M-134Gs were to be smuggled illegally to Mexico. However, Garwood submitted false paperwork to the ATF claiming he had destroyed multiple M-134G rotor housings—a key component of the M-134G that must be serialized and registered with the ATF. Instead, Garwood unlawfully transferred possession of those rotor housings to Fox.
On February 8, 2017, authorities recovered three M134G rotor housings while executing a search warrant at Fox’s residence. Two of the rotor housings were ones that Garwood told ATF were destroyed. Court records indicate that multiple M-134Gs were successfully smuggled into Mexico by Carlson and coconspirators who were prosecuted in the Southern District of Texas. Through efforts by U.S. and Mexican law enforcement, one of those M-134Gs was recovered by law enforcement in Mexico.
On September 7, 2018, Judge Pitman sentenced Garwood to two years probation and ordered him to pay a $50,000 fine after he pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge in May 2018. Garwood agreed to divest himself from ownership of his company. As a convicted felon, he can no longer possess firearms.
Fox, who faces up to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to the conspiracy charge in July 2018, is scheduled for sentencing on January 11, 2019, in Austin before Judge Pitman.
“Firearms trafficking is a priority for ATF because of the increased potential for those guns to be acquired by the criminal element,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski.
“This investigation is example of a transnational criminal organization conspiring with individuals in the United States to straw purchase weapons and munitions for the purpose of illegal export. HSI works around the clock with its foreign law enforcement partners to arrest and prosecute these criminals,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge Folden.
“We remain steadfast in our resolve to seek justice to the end and defend the nation’s mail service from illegal use. This goal is achieved through collaborative investigative efforts with other law enforcement agencies,” stated USPIS Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez.
The ATF, HSI, and USPIS conducted this investigation. The U.S. Marshal Service assisted with the deportation of Carlson from Mexico in October 2017. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of Texas and the District of Arizona provided assistance during this investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael C. Galdo is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.