In 2013, the Garda detected the recently convicted darknet weapons seller, Michael Andrew Ryan. Two years later, US law enforcement linked the online identity known as Brad Jones and Gunrunner. He faced 18 various weapons related charges—and they consisted, mainly, of selling Glocks, Berettas, and Tauruses on the darknet. He sold to Ireland, England, Scotland, and Australia, court documents explained. He committed some fraud too; he purchased handguns under false pretenses, officials said.
And while the court documents claimed the Manhattan, Kansas, man sold to those countries, Ryan ended up admitting that the charges were accurate. He accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to only six charges in exchange for four years in prison. A senior Garda spokesperson told news agencies that the Garda “welcomed the jailing of a gun dealer in America after he was convicted of gunrunning to several countries, including Ireland.”
As we followed the case from the very beginning, the depth of the investigation became quite clear. And I need to point out that Gwern made the initial discovery. He read between the lines on court documentation and connected the dots. He posted his findings on Reddit and the story has not left circulation since. The depth of the investigation became the highlight for the Garda; for instance Ryan removed the serial numbers from many of the weapons.
The Garda used advanced forensics and restored the numbers, then the numbers went to the ATF who managed to track down the original location of the gun – excluding the manufacturer. This case “showed that Garda had the capacity to work closely with international agencies to combat a growing problem of gun dealing on the Internet, the spokesperson said.
In addition to working with the ATF, the Garda worked hand-in-hand with Irish Customs. In addition to preventing illegal weaponry from landing in the wrong hands, law enforcement needed as many recovered serial numbers as possible. The more serial numbers they obtained, the closer law enforcement moved towards the source.
Customs intercepted the disassembled guns that Ryan shipped in various inconspicuous objects. Court documents mentioned “Mexican statues,” but we have not seen pictures of any such object or similar item yet. Neither Irish Customs or the Garda commented on how they knew about the operation. They explained, in brevity, that the guns came from the internet on “special websites that used secret browsers” but little else.
Police have not arrested any suspected recipients, a Garda source said. Given that the investigation began in 2013, suspected buyers may remain free. The police believed that common criminals bought the guns—not any organized militant group.
Other countries involved received or intercepted fewer shipments of guns; Australia made no mention of US collaboration.