A military veteran from Wheeling, W.Va., under investigation since the spring on suspicion of international firearms trafficking has pleaded guilty to illegally shipping guns to Israel and Canada.
Michael S. 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 to foreign customers between February and August of last year.
Federal agents said he sold the weapons to buyers in the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, Israel and elsewhere. The investigation began in May, when authorities in Jerusalem intercepted a package that contained part of a Glock semi-automatic pistol with the serial number obliterated, along with three ammunition magazines, hidden inside a speaker.
The package bore a return address for "Jason Silvers" in Wheeling Island.
Interpol contacted postal inspectors in Pittsburgh, who determined that the address was fake, as was the name. Jason Silvers, they found out, was Mr. Frank, who ran a one-man business under the name "Indoor Garage Sales" out of an address in Wheeling.
Agents from Homeland Security and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives later discovered that he bought the gun from a store called Shooters in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in April, using a credit card in his name.
Agents later found that he had sent other packages with fake return addresses and names, such as "Nathan Baker" and "John Silverwall," to contacts outside the country and labeled the parcels falsely to evade customs inspectors.
ATF agents found that Mr. Frank had bought 20 handguns in the Ohio Valley area since March.
Agents set up surveillance on Mr. Frank to track his movements and eventually searched his residence.
Next to his bed, they found a loaded Bushmaster rifle, a bulletproof vest, a ballistic helmet and face shield and numerous stun guns and sets of brass knuckles.
The U.S. attorney's office said Mr. Frank was in business for himself but that the investigation continues in regard to the foreign purchasers.
Mr. Frank's lawyer didn't return messages Monday.
Torsten Ove: email@example.com or 412-231-0132.