Navy SEAL accused of trafficking in smuggled Iraqi guns
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A Coronado-based Navy SEAL faces federal weapons charges following his arrest this week on suspicion of conspiring to sell machine guns and other firearms smuggled into the country from Iraq and Afghanistan, authorities said today.
Nicholas Bickle, 33, a member of the Navy's specialized Sea, Air and Land unit, was taken into custody in San Diego on Wednesday following a five- month investigation, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Nevada, one of the lead agencies in the case.
Also arrested as part of the probe were Andrew Kaufman, 36, of Las Vegas; and Richard Paul, 34, of Durango, Colo., officials said.
A criminal complaint charges Bickle and the two civilians with conspiracy to commit weapons offenses, including possessing and selling an unregistered machine gun, between June 22 and Oct. 28 of this year.
During the investigation, an undercover officer with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allegedly bought 18 automatic weapons and 14 other guns from the defendants in Las Vegas, Durango and Bayfield, Colo.
Some of the firearms bore a mark used by the Iraqi military to identify its equipment, according to federal officials.
According to the criminal complaint, a “cooperating individual” tipped off authorities that the machine guns had been smuggled into the United States by American special-forces military personnel returning from deployments to the Middle East.
The defendants each face up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge, along with a potential $250,000 fine.