Dealers want machine guns -- not cash -- for cocaine

MIAMI -- The Ingram MAC-10 machine gun -- the weapon of choice in South Florida drug wars -- has become a popular item of barter in the Latin American cocaine trade, federal agents say.

The new wrinkle in the drug smuggling business was disclosed Tuesday by Dan Conroy, agent-in-charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Miami.


In a surprising number of cases, he said, American smugglers accept cocaine from Latin drug dealers in payment for the weapons. Then the gun dealer sells the cocaine wholesale in the United States, making a profit off both deals.

'The guns are literally used as a form of barter in the drug traffic,' Conroy said. 'The narcotics traffickers like to take guns in payment because they can sell them so readily down there (Latin America) for big prices.'

He said the gun-for-cocaine deals have 'been increasing substantially over the last couple years.'

'Most of the machine gun activity we see is among the large-scale narcotics dealers who need these guns to protect their stash and to protect themselves from the police,' Conroy said.

Miami long has been one of the principal markets for illegal sales of machine guns, federal agents say. The flourishing drug trade, aggravated by ever-growing violence among dealers, has stepped up the demand for the rapid-fire weapons in south Florida.


The Ingram MAC-10 is the most popular of all. It is small, compact and packs tremendous firepower in a 32-round clip -- either in a .45-caliber, .380-caliber or 9mm slug.

'These are the type of guns that you read about in the drug killings in Dade (County),' Conroy said. 'The drug dealers want these.

'Any type of gun like that is not real accurate, but it does what it is supposed to do. It accomplishes the job.'

The MAC-10, manufactured by RPB in Atlanta, is sold legally in gun stores as a semi-automatic weapon but easily can be converted into a full, rapid-fire weapon.

'The only regulations on them are the same as for any pistol,' Conroy said. 'Almost anyone can go in and buy one.'

Conroy said the MAC-10 sells for around $400 legally, but once converted can bring as much as $2,000 on the black market. Equipped with a silencer, the weapon will cost as much as $2,500, he said.

Conroy said federal agents have had some luck in confiscating machine guns in drug seizures, but have no idea just how many are in the south Florida area.

'In the last 18 months we have seized about 700 illegal machine guns and over a thousand silencers in Florida alone,' he said.


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