A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection watch commander at the Long Beach Seaport faces federal prison time at sentencing Monday for running an illegal online gun-selling operation, failing to disclose foreign business contacts and cheating on his taxes.
Wei Xu, 57, of Santa Fe Springs, pleaded guilty in July to four felonies: unlawfully engaging in the business of dealing in firearms, unlawfully possessing unregistered firearms, lying to a federal agency, and tax evasion. The charges carry up to 25 years behind bars, but prosecutors said in the plea agreement that they would recommend about three and a half years and restitution of $128,407 to the Internal Revenue Service.
Xu admitted that he sold at least 99 firearms without the required federal license between the late 1990s and his arrest. To increase the profit margin of his illegal side business, Xu exploited his status as a law enforcement officer to purchase and then transfer “off-roster” handguns that cannot be sold to the general public by a federal firearms license dealer, according to the plea agreement.
Xu also sold or transferred firearms within days or weeks from the date he purchased them and operated several accounts on Internet marketplaces to advertise his firearm business, according to court documents.
In July and August 2018, Xu sold four firearms to an undercover agent posing as a buyer, and unlawfully sold three of the firearms out of the trunk of his car, prosecutors said.
Xu’s crimes were a “betrayal of his oath to uphold the law,” according to the government’s sentencing memorandum, filed in Los Angeles federal court.
The firearms included an “off-roster” pistol, high-capacity magazines, and a short-barreled rifle, the plea agreement states. A search of Xu’s home recovered more than 250 firearms, including 41 fully automatic firearms or machine guns and two additional short-barreled rifles — none of which were registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as required by federal law, according to prosecutors.
Xu also admitted that he lied on three questionnaires submitted to the Office of Personnel Management to obtain a secret-level security clearance. OPM is a federal agency that oversees applications for security clearances for federal government employees.
Finally, Xu admitted in his plea agreement that he willfully evaded payment of federal income tax from 2005 to 2017 by setting up a sham company used to claim fictional ordinary business losses to offset his ordinary income and fraudulently evade tax due to the Internal Revenue Service, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Mr. Xu’s public life as a federal officer masked his private greed and disrespect for the law, which he demonstrated through illegal weapons sales, tax evasion, and lying about contacts with foreign nationals,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said after Xu pleaded guilty. “Public officials promise to act with integrity when they take an oath of office, and we will zealously prosecute those who mock the laws they have sworn to uphold.”
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