Three Dark Web Gun Traffickers Indicted For Unlawful Dealing in Firearms

A news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office has stated that 44-year-old Michael Paul Grisham Smith, a Grass Valley native has been at the receiving end of a nine-count indictment by a federal grand jury on the 1st of March, charging him with unlawful dealing and manufacturing in firearms and unlawful possession of unregistered firearms.

Mass shootings in the U.S. are becoming rampant lately and the fear for public safety has led to the rally for new gun reforms. However, with people like Michael Smith, who will rather turn to the dark web to buy illegal guns rather than the streets, the safety of people cannot be totally guaranteed. Just last month, the U.S. experienced one of its worst ever mass shootings with the gun, an AR-15, similar to the one being used by the teenager.

Court documents revealed that a Homeland Security undercover agent who posed as a firearms vendor on one dark web marketplace was contacted by Michael Smith, looking to sell “ghost” guns (AR-15 style) with no serial number. Reports suggest that Smith, between the 1st of December 2017 and February 15th manufactured and sold eight AR-15-style guns which had no serial numbers to the Homeland Security undercover agent and accepted payment in Bitcoin.

Michael Smith is now facing a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison in addition to a $250,000 fine if found guilty. Michael Smith’s charges are alleged and are at this stage presumed innocent until he’s proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Any sentence given will be determined at the caution the court displays, after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Quinn Hochhalter and Justin Lee are prosecuting the case which was made possible by an investigation conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations.

Two people, 22-year-old Jesus Rodriguez, and Raymond Sykes, 23, were charged by a federal indictment, with dealing and conspiring to sell firearms without a license. Additional reports from a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release also stated that Rodriguez was again charged by the indictment with possessing an unregistered and unserialized short-barreled rifle, and distributing illicit drugs (methamphetamine and cocaine), some of which he allegedly sold to some undercover agents.

Just like Michael Smith, Rodriguez also met with an undercover agent, together with two other confidential sources, 12 times between the 5th of September and 6th of December last year of which he sold them numerous firearms, including handguns, AR-15-type rifles, a short-barreled rifle with a 90-round drum magazine. Many of the guns did not have a serial number or any form of identifying marks.

The second culprit, Sykes just happened to be present and also took part in not less than four of the firearms dealings. Rodriguez and Sykes’s illegal doings came to light after investigations were launched by U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, with special assistance from the Sacramento Police Department and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office’s Gangs, Hate Crimes and Narcotics Unit.

Michael’s run-in with the law happened during December last year, when he was arrested together with two others in connection to firearms and burglary charges after deputies of the Nevada County Sheriff’s office found stolen property and over 10 guns with them.

Deputies were called to the 12000 block of Slate Creek Road in Grass Valley on the 5th of December for an interrupted burglary involving Michael Smith and two other culprits.

Daniel Elijah Davis, 39, also a native of Grass Valley was later arrested as a suspect by deputies after he was caught driving one of the vans used in the burglary gone wrong. A search warrant afterward was obtained by the deputies for Davis’ address and another one for the second address on Towle lane, where the van was followed to by the deputies.

Upon reaching the second address, Michael Smith was found hiding in the loft of the Towle Lane residence. A press release after his arrest stated that he was prohibited by a court to possess any firearms. All the items which were reported stolen during the burglary were recovered by deputies as well as 23 guns of which some were loaded.