2 charged in massive international arms smuggling scheme

National
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MIAMI (AP) — Two people have been charged in Florida with orchestrating a massive arms smuggling scheme involving thousands of weapons and parts sent to South America, federal officials said Friday.

Homeland Security Investigations officials said at a news conference that authorities seized 5,300 firearms and components, many of them powerful AR-15 rifles. More than two dozen people have been arrested in Argentina, Brazil and the U.S.

Matthew Albence, deputy director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the weapons were mailed in pieces using false labeling from the U.S. to South America and assembled there. The weapons parts were shipped through the U.S. Post Office and other delivery services.

“There’s no shortage of creativity in the criminal element,” Albence said. “It’s not just stopping the contraband, it’s dismantling the organizations.”

In Miami, a criminal complaint charges John James Peterson, 60, and Brunella Zuppone, 67, with playing key roles in the smuggling scheme. In addition to the rifles and parts, authorities seized 156 handguns, 30,000 rounds of ammunition, 167 explosives and 15 silencers.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Peterson and Zuppone had lawyers to represent them.

In addition to the weapons and ammunition, authorities seized more than $100,000 in cash. Anthony Salisbury, chief of Homeland Security Investigations in Miami, said most of the weapons were intended for Brazil after transiting through Argentina.

“It’s not on our doorstep but it’s just as dangerous,” Salisbury said. “South Florida does seem to be a hub of weapons trafficking to South America.”

At a news conference, officials displayed dozens of weapons parts, ammunition clips and one fully assembled AR-15 that included a setting for fully automatic fire. That is illegal for civilian use in the U.S.

“At the end of the day, it’s all for money,” Albence said. “There’s always groups that exploit vulnerabilities in the system for profit.”

___

Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Coronavirus News

More Coronavirus

Trending Stories

Your Local Election HQ

More Election

Local Sports

Baseball cancellations have area umpires feeling "blue"

Thumbnail for the video titled "Baseball cancellations have area umpires feeling "blue""

Andrew Brandt on the drafting of Jordan Love

Thumbnail for the video titled "Andrew Brandt on the drafting of Jordan Love"

Incoming Badgers' lineman Bortolini prepares for next step

Thumbnail for the video titled "Incoming Badgers' lineman Bortolini prepares for next step"

"The Driveway" basketball training facility pushes through pandemic

Thumbnail for the video titled ""The Driveway" basketball training facility pushes through pandemic"

Timber Rattlers Erickson talks shortened spring, hopes for a season

Thumbnail for the video titled "Timber Rattlers Erickson talks shortened spring, hopes for a season"

WIR's "Test and Tune" fills drag strip

Thumbnail for the video titled "WIR's "Test and Tune" fills drag strip"