Six people were arrested over the weekend following the return of two indictments charging them with conspiracy to violate the Arms Control Export Act and attempting to violate the Arms Control Export Act, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. The defendants, two of whom are brothers, were arrested in SeaTac, Bellevue, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Berkeley, California. Brothers NARES LEKHAKUL, 36, a lawful permanent resident of Bellevue, Washington, and NARIS LEKHAKUL, 42, a Thai citizen arrested at SeaTac, will make their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 1:30 today.
According to the indictment, between 2011 and 2013, the defendants conspired to export restricted firearms parts from the U.S. 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.
In addition to the LEKHAKUL brothers, these additional defendants are also indicted:
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 charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
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.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Todd Greenberg and Thomas Woods with assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice National Security Division, Counterespionage Section.