Crime - Sacto 911

The dark web, bitcoin and 'ghost' AR-15s: Grass Valley man pleads guilty to trafficking

Michael Paul Smith
Michael Paul Smith

Michael Smith of Grass Valley pleaded guilty to unlawful dealing and manufacturing in firearms on Friday after selling assault rifles to an undercover law enforcement agent, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Smith, who used the online alias "BrotherBig," contacted a person he believed to be an arms dealer on the dark web. The dealer was actually an undercover Homeland Security agent, according to court documents.

Their interactions were detailed in a 31-page criminal complaint. Smith and the undercover agent “discussed the purchase of grenades, anti-personnel mines, and explosives," and met several times in the Rocklin Bass Pro Shops parking lot, according to the complaint.

Smith manufactured and sold seven AR-15 style assault weapons — called "ghost guns" since they are extremely difficult to trace — along with another with an AR-15 assault weapon with no serial numbers to the Homeland Security agent in exchange for $4,400 worth of bitcoin. The sales were made between Oct. 5, 2017 and Feb. 15.

The guns were delivered Dec. 1, and by February, the Homeland Security agent had asked Smith to deliver four more guns. Smith was arrested Feb. 15, and a search of his home yielded more firearms, methamphetamine and LSD.

Smith's sentencing hearing is set to take place on Sept. 7. The maximum penalty for the offense is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the Department of Justice.

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