July 18 (UPI) -- A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection watch commander has pleaded guilty to running an illegal gun selling business in Southern California since the late 1990s.
A former commander at the Long Beach Seaport, Wei Xu entered the plea Wednesday in Los Angeles court and faces up to 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Wei, 56, used his position as a customs officer to sell at least 99 "off roster" handguns.
Wei admitted to charges of unlawfully dealing firearms, unlawful possession of unregistered firearms, lying to federal agents and tax evasion. Prosecutors said he had dozens of machine guns in his possession, as well as other prohibited firearms -- and failed to disclose foreign financial interests and contacts in China so he could obtain a security clearance.
"[His] public life as a federal officer masked his private greed and disrespect for the law, which he demonstrated through illegal weapons sales, tax evasion and lying about contacts with foreign nationals," said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. "Public officials promise to act with integrity when they take an oath of office, and we will zealously prosecute those who mock the laws they have sworn to uphold."
Prosecutors said Wei sold four guns to undercover agents last summer, three from the trunk of his car. He also sold high-capacity magazines and a short-barreled rifle, they added.
At his home, agents discovered 250 guns, including 41 fully-automatic machine guns and two short-barreled rifles. None were registered, as required by law, with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
As a customs agent, Xu had special access to "off roster" handguns that cannot be sold to the public by any federally licensed dealer. Officials said he operated several online marketplaces where he advertised his guns and had done so since the 1990s.
"[He] made many bad decisions ... least of all was his ongoing decision to evade the payment of taxes due to the IRS for a period of over 10 years through the use of a sham corporation," IRS Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Korner said. "[We hope] the message is clear -- operating outside the law and failing to pay taxes has severe consequences."
Wei will be sentenced Jan. 14.