West Virginia man pleads guilty to illegal international shipping of guns

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A military veteran from Wheeling under investigation since the spring on suspicion of international firearms trafficking has pleaded guilty to illegally shipping guns to Israel and Canada.

Michael Steven Frank, 25, who had been charged this summer with conspiracy and money laundering, admitted Friday in federal court in Wheeling that he sold 24 weapons between February and August of last year.

U.S. postal inspectors in Pittsburgh said he sold the weapons under fake names and had buyers in the United Kingdom as well as Canada and Israel.

The investigation began in May when authorities in Jerusalem intercepted a package that contained part of a semi-automatic pistol with the serial number obliterated, along with three magazines.

The package bore a return address for "Jason Silvers" in Wheeling Island. Interpol contacted postal inspectors, who determined that "Jason Silvers" was Mr. Frank.

They later determined that he bought the gun in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in April, using a credit card in his name.

Agents discovered that he had sent other packages with fake return addresses to contacts outside the country and labeled the parcels falsely to evade customs inspectors. One weapon was labeled as a caulking gun, another as a stereo speaker.

Mr. Frank, who had been released to his parents' custody following a detention hearing in July, remains free pending sentencing.

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Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com


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