Fil-Am brothers nabbed for international arms smugglingBy Nimfa U. Rueda
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The US Attorney’s Office has compiled evidence against two of three of the Maralit brothers, Filipino-Americans based in the US, who were charged with smuggling weapons to the Philippines after their arrest. The third is at large in Manila. Copies of the evidence emailed to the Inquirer shows two Maralit brothers and their arsenal of high-powered firearms. PHOTOS FROM US ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
LOS ANGELES — United States authorities are working with Philippine officials in hunting down one of three Filipino-American brothers charged with smuggling weapons from the US to the Philippines.
Ariel Maralit, 43, is wanted for alleged conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act and unlicensed firearms dealing. He is believed to be in the Philippines. His two brothers, both law enforcement officers in the US, were arrested separately Friday (Saturday in Manila).
Rex Maralit, a 44-year-old New York Police Department (NYPD) officer, was arrested in New York. His brother Wilfredo, a 48-year-old Customs and Border Protection officer assigned to Los Angeles International Airport, was captured in California. Shortly after his arrest, Wilfredo appeared in a federal court in Santa Ana, California, where the judge set a $300,000 bail.
Wilfredo is from Garden Grove, an Orange County suburb 35 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Rex is from Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
Between January 2009 and March 2013, the three brothers allegedly smuggled high-powered assault rifles, sniper rifles, pistols and firearm accessories from the US to the Philippines, according to the complaint, a copy of which was emailed to the Inquirer by the US Attorney’s Office.
The complaint alleged that Ariel Maralit identified potential buyers in the Philippines while his brothers purchased the weapons, using their law enforcement credentials to get a discount on many occasions.
The weapons were disassembled before they were shipped to the Philippines in disguised packages. Some were labeled as “televisions” or “industrial sliding door track,” according to the complaint. None of the defendants obtained export licenses or federal firearms licenses.
“Rather than upholding the law as they were sworn to do, these defendants made international gun running a family business,” the US Attorney said in a statement. “The brothers used their knowledge of firearms and their status as law enforcement officers to engage in an illegal international arms trafficking business.”
The brothers emailed each other photos of themselves posing with the weapons. Copies of the photos were forwarded to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
One of the smuggled weapons — the Barrett M82A1 .50 caliber semi-automatic rifle — is “capable of penetrating body armor, exterior walls of buildings, and even aircraft,” said the statement.
Another one, the FN Herstal 5.7mm semi-automatic pistol, was described by authorities as “a high-capacity, battlefield weapon capable of firing a projectile that can penetrate body armor.”
If convicted, the brothers face up to 5 years in prison on each charge and a fine of up to $250,000.
The Arms Export Control Act prohibits American dealers from selling to international buyers without permission and documentation from the State Department.
Government prosecutors Friday asked the federal court in Santa Ana, California, to order Wilfredo Maralit held without bail, but US Magistrate Judge Arthur Nakazato instead gave the defendant until September 19 to post a $300,000 bail.
After posting bail, Maralit will be released from custody and required to appear in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York on September 23.
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