(STL.News) – First Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Thomas Harris Jr., 27, of Croydon, PA was arrested and charged by Indictment with multiple firearms trafficking offenses stemming from his scheme to sell almost 40 guns to a buyer on the island of St. Lucia. Specifically, the defendant was charged with making false statements to a federal firearm licensee, dealing in firearms without a license, delivery of firearms to a common carrier without written notice, and smuggling goods from the United States.
The Indictment alleges that Harris purchased approximately 38 firearms in 12 transactions at two Bucks County, PA, gun shops between April 20, 2019, and February 15, 2020, and provided a false address as his place of residence on the required federal forms that he completed during each transaction. It is further alleged that the defendant then illegally trafficked, and attempted to traffic, the guns to St. Lucia, a sovereign island nation in the West Indies, despite his not having a license to deal in firearms nor a license to export them as required by law. He also allegedly failed to notify the shipping company he used that his shipments contained firearms, as required by law.
One of Harris’s suspected packages to St. Lucia was intercepted by federal agents at the warehouse of a local shipping company. Inside, concealed in household items such as packages of diapers, cat litter and laundry detergent, the agents found seven Glock semiautomatic pistols, one Ruger semiautomatic pistol, two AK-47 pattern pistols, two AK-47 pattern rifles, two AR-15 lower receivers, two AR-15 upper receivers, ten high capacity Glock ammunition magazines, seven additional assorted ammunition magazines, and 815 rounds of ammunition.
Harris allegedly used the alias “Lance Brown” when he presented this package to the shipping company for shipment to St. Lucia, and he allegedly falsely told a shipping company representative that the package contained household items. After the defendant left this package with the shippers, he traveled to St. Lucia himself in March 2020. He remained there until returning to the United States on July 25, 2020, when he was arrested at an airport in New York.
“As alleged in the Indictment charging him with firearms trafficking offenses, Harris has a brazen disrespect for our laws meant to regulate and monitor the sale of weapons,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Williams. “After sending his most recent shipment of guns overseas he also left the country for a few months, but all that did was postpone the inevitable. If you are charged in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania with a federal offense, there is no place to hide, here or abroad. We will not rest until we find you and hold you accountable.”
“Illicit international firearms trafficking is a top priority for the Office of Export Enforcement,” said P. Lee Smith, Performing the Non-exclusive Functions and Duties of the Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the Department of Commerce. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to arrest and prosecute individuals who violate United States export control laws that are intended to keep the most dangerous goods out of the most dangerous hands.”
“Preventing the illegal use and trafficking of firearms is a central focus of ATF’s strategy to combat violent crime and protect our communities,” said John Schmidt, acting Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “Illegally purchased firearms often end up in the hands of violent offenders and affect communities near and far, in this instance Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. Ensuring firearms traffickers are aggressively investigated and swiftly brought to justice is a top priority for the Philadelphia Field Division — this collaborative effort between our local, state and federal partners is a prime example of such.”
“If you want to be a firearms dealer and exporter, get the proper licenses and follow the law,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Guns illegally exported overseas are quite likely to end up in the wrong hands and be used to commit further criminal acts. The FBI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to combat weapons trafficking, in the interests of public safety here and abroad.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 80 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $3,750,000 fine, and a $1,500 special assessment.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement, New York Field Office; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph A. LaBar and U.S. Department of Justice National Security Division Trial Attorney Michael E. Eaton.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.