November 11 , 2011 An event at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport reported this week is one that Veterans can appreciate. Customs and Border Protection agents working in the airport’s cargo area detected a live military flare in the mail, averting what officials described as a potential catastrophic event.
The Vietnam War-era device, identified as an M49A1 phosphorous trip flare was discovered as it passed through the busy facility.
U.S. Customs supervisor, Brian Bell said he did not know whether the package that contained the device would have been routed onto a passenger or cargo plane.
After spotting the contraband in the mail, Customs agents contacted the sender for more details. The man told agents he bought the device online and then re-sold it to a buyer in Japan, where the package was en route to.
The Customs and Border Protection agents said there was no evidence to suggest the intent to harm. However, law enforcement officials are investigating the incident.
Purchases of dangerous military weapons designed to harm, openly for sale on e-Bay and other auction web sites are not as uncommon as you may think. Often the items are listed as war memorabilia or collectables. Other illegal weapons, such as knives, pepper spray, metal handgrenade replicas, and stun guns make the headlines from time to time. Perhaps the most notable attempt to sell an item prohibited by law occured earlier this year.
A Filipino foreign national, Henson Chua started an online auction on e-bay from Manila in May of 2010 selling parts from a RQ-11B Raven unmanned spy drone. The highest bid of $13,000 was made by an undercover investigator for the Department of Homeland Security.
According to the indictments, an agent of Homeland Security Investigations posing as a potential buyer, corresponded with Chua over several months about selling the plane and discussed how best to smuggle it out of the country. Chua proved it is possible to send a Raven’s nose cone through the U.S. Postal Service and its stabilizer tail through FedEx without any problem, using PayPal.
Chua was in the U.S. on a visa when he was arrested in Los Angeles on February 10. The indictment refers to a “co-conspirator” in the U.S. who relayed the drone parts to Chua’s undercover purchaser. He pleaded guilty in U.S. District court in Tampa on July 28, 2011 to illegal arms sales and smuggling the UAV from the Philippines into the U.S, a violation of The Arms Control Export Act.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. sentenced Chua to three years of probation and a fine of $13,000 for trying to sell an imported drone on eBay.
As for where Chua got the drone, in e-mails to undercover investigators, he said the drone came from a Philippine government auction. However, the Department of Defense says they determined that it belonged to the U.S. government.