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Two brothers who were arrested in June 2013 in connection with a conspiracy to illegally ship firearms parts to Thailand, have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle to conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. NARES LEKHAKUL, 36, a lawful permanent resident of Bellevue, Washington, pleaded guilty today and NARIS LEKHAKUL, 42, a Thai citizen arrested in June 2013 at SeaTac Airport pleaded guilty last week. Both men are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones on January 24, 2014.
In their plea agreements the brothers admit that NARIS LEKHAKUL, while living in Thailand, identified the firearms parts he wanted ordered and shipped overseas. Initially the gun parts were sent to his brother NARES’ home in Bellevue, Washington, where NARES LEKHAKUL attempted to disguise the shipments which were sent on to Thailand. After one shipment was seized in 2011, NARIS LEKHAKUL recruited four other people to receive the shipments of firearms parts, disguise them, and send them on to Thailand. The co-conspirators did not obtain appropriate licenses to make the shipments. The co-conspirators would use fake names and fake invoices to try to avoid detection, and they packed various firearms parts in specific ways to try to avoid detection by x-ray scanners. Members of the group shipped various firearms parts with false labels. For example, in one instance they shipped magazines for .45 caliber handguns, while labeling them “Vented steel case for electronic components” or “replacement springs and metal caps for bottling machine.” Other shipments were labeled as “hobby parts,” or “glow in the dark marker sets.” In all, the group is believed to be responsible for more than 240 shipments of restricted firearms components. The defendants did not ship any assembled firearms or entire firearms disassembled.
Prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence of four years in prison for NARIS LEKHAKUL, and 30 months in prison for NARES LEKHAKUL. Judge Jones is not bound by the recommendation and can impose any sentence up to the five year maximum.
In addition to the LEKHAKUL brothers, these additional defendants have also pleaded guilty:
WITT SITTIKORNWANISH, 24, a U.S. citizen residing in the Los Angeles area;
WIMOL BRUMME, 41, a Thai citizen residing in Las Vegas;
SANGSIT MOWANNA, 35, a U.S. citizen residing in the Los Angeles area; and
SUPANEE SAENGUTHAI, 35, a Thai citizen residing in Berkeley, California.
The Department of State promulgates the United States Munitions List, which consists of categories of defense articles and services that cannot be exported without a license issued by the Department of State. The U.S. Munitions List includes the firearms’ parts and components shipped in this case. As a result, the export of firearms components requires an export license.
The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.