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Border Protection Officer Had a Side Gig Selling Illegal Guns out of the Trunk of His Car

He sold at least 99 unlicensed firearms from the late 1990s until the time of his arrest in February.

by Kelly Vinett
Jul 18 2019, 7:11pm

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A former Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer had a decades-long side hustle of illegally buying and selling guns — and he exploited his status as a commander to do it, according to prosecutors.

Wei Xu, once a watch commander for CBP in Southern California, confessed to four felonies, including selling at least 99 unlicensed firearms from the late 1990s until the time of his February arrest. In addition to pleading guilty to unlawfully engaging in the business of dealing in firearms, the 56-year-old also admitted to illegally possessing unregistered firearms, lying to a federal agency, and tax evasion. He’s facing up to 25 years in prison and will be sentenced in January.

"Mr. Xu's public life as a federal officer masked his private greed and disrespect for the law,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement.

To turn a bigger profit, Xu used his position at CBP to buy and then transfer “off-roster” handguns, or firearms that cannot be sold to the general public, according to his plea agreement.

At the time of Xu’s arrest, more than 250 firearms were discovered in his Santa Fe Springs home, 41 of which were fully automatic. None of them were lawfully registered with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the U.S. attorney's office for the Central District of California in Los Angeles.

Xu began working for CBP in Los Angeles and Long Beach Seaport in 2004, but it’s unclear when his employment terminated. In 2018, he sold four illegal guns to an undercover agent posing as a buyer, three of them from the trunk of his car. He coordinated his sales by operating multiple accounts on an online marketplace where he posted advertisements of the illegal guns, according to court documents.

Xu also admitted to lying about his financial interests and contacts in China to get a high-level security clearance. He also cheated on his federal income taxes.

“CBP officers take an Oath of Office, a solemn pledge that conveys great responsibility and one that should be carried out at all times with the utmost professionalism. CBP officers who disregard that oath and instead choose to violate the trust of the citizens they swore to protect are held accountable,” a CBP spokesperson told VICE News.

Cover image: 13 August 2018, Stuttgart, Germany: Luggage is in the trunk of a car. Photo by: Sebastian Gollnow/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images