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Authorities arrest Customs and Border Protection officer suspected of selling guns without license

Members of the Clovis, N.M., Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactics team handcuff a U.S. airman during a hostile threat exercise at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., June 20, 2012. (Airman 1st Class Eboni Reece/U.S. Air Force)

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer has been charged with selling guns without a license and using his status as a law enforcement officer to buy and then transfer handguns not available to the general public, according to federal authorities.

Wei Xu, a watch commander at CBP’s Los Angeles and Long Beach Seaport, sold or transferred at least 70 firearms since 2014 without a license, authorities allege in a criminal complaint and affidavit. He allegedly sold four of them to an undercover investigator posing as a buyer.

The criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday charged Xu, 56, with dealing in firearms without a federal firearms license and unlawfully transferring an unregistered short-barreled rifle. Authorities said that licensing records show that Xu is not and has never been a licensed firearms dealer.

Xu appeared in court Wednesday and was ordered detained without bond pending trial, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. He is due back in court later this month.

During a search of his home Tuesday, federal authorities seized more than 300 firearms, including assault rifles, short-barreled rifles and what look like machine guns, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

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Federal prosecutors said Xu, who began working for CBP in 2004, advertised his business online. An undercover investigator with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives got in touch with him through Calguns.net after the FBI retrieved a two-page spreadsheet from Xu’s trash that showed usernames and passwords for his online accounts, including two Calguns profiles, according to an affidavit attached to the complaint.

The pair arranged four meetings, during which Xu sold the undercover investigator four firearms.

During one recorded encounter in July, the undercover investigator met Xu in a parking lot in Cerritos, where Xu was sitting in a Maserati sedan, according to the affidavit. The undercover investigator remarked on Xu’s expensive vehicle.

“I’m like you, playboy,” Xu said, according to the affidavit.

He then showed the agent a blue rifle box in the trunk and told the officer that he’d need to “fix” the rifle, which he said he bought in Arizona, to legally use it in California. The undercover officer left with the rifle.

The affidavit says that at least 14 of the 70 firearms Xu transferred were “off-roster,” meaning they are not on California’s list of safe handguns. Only certain people, including law enforcement officers, can buy off-roster guns from retailers, the affidavit says.

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© 2019 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.