According to the United States Attorney’s Office of the Western District of New York, an Alaska man allegedly shipped nine firearms from Alaska to buyers in New York and recently admitted that he had been using the dark web to conduct business. A federal grand jury returned a 15-count indictment in early September that accused the man of a series of illegal firearm transportation and defacement charges. The man had allegedly distributed nine guns over a period of four months in 2018.
U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. made the announcement in early September and his statements were reflected in a news update on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office of the Western District of New York. Benjamin Handley, a 25-year-old from Homer, Alaska, was arrested in Anchorage, Alaska, on August 29, 2018. Following his arrest by the Division of Alaska State Troopers, the Alaska Department of Public Safety, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska, the alleged gun trafficker was arraigned before Chief Magistrate Judge Deborah M. Smith. At his arraignment, Handley pleaded not guilty to all 15 counts listed in the indictment.
Although Handley is due in Buffalo, New York, Chief Magistrate Judge Smith revealed that there may be evidence proving that Handley had committed several additional crimes while in pre-trial detention in Anchorage. The most recent court filing was an Order of Detention Pending Trial where Chief Magistrate Judge Smith ruled that no conditions of release could reasonably ensure the safety of the public or assure the defendant’s appearance at any upcoming hearing. Although many factors played into this decision—such as the fact that the defendant had allegedly operated an international gun trafficking operation—the Chief Magistrate Judge pointed out something that authorities in Alaska had discovered since the 25-year-old’s arrest.
According to the Anchorage Judge, authorities discovered that Handley had contacted his mother from a phone in jail and requested that she destroy evidence that law enforcement had not yet discovered. He specifically asked her to remove two items from his truck and “clear” two briefcases. The government alleged that the defendant had moved to illegally destroy inculpatory evidence. Chief Magistrate Judge Smith wrote that the government’s accusations, if true, constituted obstruction of justice and potentially additional crimes. The case against Handley was based on strong evidence in support of the charges listed in the lengthy indictment.
The judge wrote that, in addition to the above reasons regarding the detention of Handley, his identities on the dark web have been connected to vendors or shops that specialized in false identification documents of various sorts. He had allegedly created three so-called “identities on the darkweb” that had connections to false identity vendors. His ability to easily obtain such documents would further hinder her from preventing Handley from fleeing under an assumed identity and avoiding prosecution. This, combined with the other factors mentioned above, provided the judge with ample information in support of Handley’s pre-trial detention in Alaska. He will likely receive a similar ruling once federal authorities transfer him to New York.
The indictment accused Handley of five counts of the Unlawful Shipment of a Defaced Firearm(s) for shipping Glock 17s, Glock 19s, M10s (RPB Industries), VMAC 9s, and MPA30Ts that he had stripped of serial numbers. It accused him of five counts of the Unlawful Transfer of Machine guns in connection with modifying the guns listed above to function as automatic weapons and then shipping them to New York. And it accused him of another five counts of the Unlawful Transport of Firearms in connection with knowingly shipping all of the above firearms illegally as he had allegedly modified them in such a way that they would no longer be “legal” to carry in the state and elsewhere.
The charges carry faces maximum sentences of 10 years imprisonment and $250,000 fines. Before the case moves to Buffalo, though, Alaska prosecutors could move to charge the defendant with the recently discovered obstruction of justice attempt.