Federal agents arrested a Navy SEAL on Wednesday in San Diego, CA, on charges that he and two other men smuggled firearms from Iraq and possibly Afghanistan to sell them on the black market.
The Navy Times reports that Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Nicholas Bickle, 33, along with Richard Paul, 34, of Durango, CO and Andrew Kaufman, 36, of Las Vegas, NV, are facing charges after allegedly selling 18 machine guns and 14 other firearms to undercover agents in a sting operation from June through October. According to the court documents reviewed by TPM, the markings on some of the guns suggest they belonged to the Iraqi military. The Times reports that Bickle’s military awards and decorations “include the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat “V,” National Defense Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.”
According to the Associated Press, federal prosecutor Drew Smith told U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr. in Las Vegas that Bickle is a “rogue Navy SEAL.” The complaint suggests that Bickle was in Chicago, IL, in August, apparently “involved” in the production of Transformers 3. The AP also reports that five pounds of C-4 explosives, grenades and night-vision goggles were also seized at Paul’s Colorado home.
“As long as they got paid … they didn’t care if the weapons wound up in Mexico or on the streets of Las Vegas,” Smith also said.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Bickle, who is appearing in a San Diego court today, allegedly smuggled “about 80 AK-47s as well as Iraqi-made weapons. He allegedly bragged that the weapons would be impossible to trace.” The complaint alleges that on Sept. 8, Paul told an agent that he had 10 AK-47s for sale at $1,300 a piece, and six handguns at $300 each.
The Times also notes:
Federal agents were allegedly tipped off to the suspected smuggling conspiracy by someone facing felony charges of domestic violence and robbery
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com