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By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK |
Thu May 24, 2012 4:09pm EDT
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A member of the U.S. National Guard and two Chinese citizens have been charged with smuggling multiple shipments of firearms from New York City to China, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
Joseph Debose, 29, a staff sergeant with a unit of the U.S. Special Forces National Guard, was arrested Sunday in a sting operation by federal agents in North Carolina, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn. At the time of his arrest, he was carrying a .45 caliber pistol and 12 other firearms he intended to send illegally overseas, prosecutors said.
Debose worked with two Chinese men, Zhifu Lin and Lilan Li, to run a "pipeline of illegal firearms from the United States to China," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
The scheme came to light when local law enforcement officials in China seized a package containing firearms concealed in speaker casings, the complaint said. The weapons, whose serial numbers had been defaced, had been sent from Queens, New York, and were later traced back to Debose, according to the complaint.
Debose, a North Carolina resident, is scheduled to appear Wednesday before a federal judge in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a hearing on whether he will be removed to Brooklyn to face a complaint accusing him of illegal gun dealing and aiding in the export of firearms to China. A lawyer for Debose declined to comment.
Lin and Li have both been charged with illegally exporting firearms. Lin was arraigned Thursday in Brooklyn federal court. Li, who was arraigned May 2, previously pleaded not guilty. Lawyers for both men could not be reached for comment.
All three men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The case is U.S. v. Debose, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, no. 12-480.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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