Smugglers who shipped 2,000 Chinese-made assault rifles to the United States thought they were dealing with a Miami mobster whose clients included street gangs and terrorists, according to federal sources.
And they volunteered to provide even heavier weapons, including a surface-to-air missile "that could take out a 747," investigators said.Seven people believed to be members of the ring were rounded up this week for allegedly smuggling the 2,000 AK-47 rifles through the port of Oakland. Seven others charged in the plot - including top Chinese arms export officials - remain at large.
The guns were bought as part of a 16-month sting operation dubbed "Dragon Fire" by investigators of the U.S. Customs Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Hammond Ku of San Jose was the chief U.S. middleman for the ring, according to prosecutors, and indicated he and his contacts in China were willing to sell anything to anyone. Ku, 49, was one of the seven arrested on Wednesday.
Ku said he could arrange the sale of automatic weapons without serial numbers that "could be sold to `gang bangers,' " according to an affidavit filed by Customs agent Matthew King.
When undercover agents told Ku they had other clients, including right-wing radicals in the United States and terrorists in Northern Ireland and Latin America, he was willing to provide far deadlier weapons for them, added federal sources who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity.
Ku went on to provide price lists for items that included 60mm mortars, rocket launchers and machine guns, the sources said.
According to the affidavit, Ku was asked about the chances of getting a missile that could take down a plane. He said he could offer Red Parakeet surface-to-air missiles, which are similar to U.S.-made Stingers, and that they could "take out a 747," the affidavit said.
The federal sources said the suspects dealt with a federal agent they thought was an organized crime figure from Miami.