(CBS 12) — Trafficking assault rifles overseas— that’s the accusation against a man arrested in our area.
On Wednesday, newly released documents shed more light on alleged Brazilian gun trafficker Frederik Barbieri, and his local connections.
The court filing by federal prosecutors includes a photo showing 52 assault rifles, packaged for shipping, serial numbers obliterated, seized this past Friday, from a Vero Beach storage facility.
The document indicates Barbieri rented the Vero storage locker where the guns were found.
Agents arrested Barbieri over the weekend at his Ft. Pierce home, charging him with exporting firearms to his native Brazil— without a license.
“Either they’re going to be used for the drug trade, or for people that are engaged in lawlessness, or perhaps they’re going from Brazil to Syria, or to Iran,” said Stuart Kaplan, former FBI agent, now an attorney based in Palm Beach Gardens.
Kaplan said potential scenarios like these are why the United States requires licensing of arms exporters.
“In the interest of our own national security, we don’t want to be providing assistance to our enemies,” said Kaplan. Or facilitating turmoil for our allies, he added.
The Barbieri case started with a seizure last year at the Rio de Janeiro airport. Police video shows dozens of AR-15’s and AK-47’s recovered from hollowed-out hot water heaters.
The new court filing reveals agents traced that Rio shipment back to a “freight forwarder in Medley,” near Miami.
The feds say records show Barbieri’s “company” is responsible for that shipment to Rio.
The records show over a four-year period, Barbieri shipped “520 electric motors, 124 Rheem water heaters, 15 air conditioning units and 1291 LED lights,” per the document.
The feds also say based on bank records, they can pin on Barbieri at least two purchases of Rheem hot water heaters from a Home Depot in Port St. Lucie.
The new report also explains it’s “illegal for civilians in Brazil to possess firearms.” Brazilian law enforcement says assault rifles “have a street value of approximately $15,000 to $20,000 in the black market in Brazil.”
There’s huge interest in the Barbieri case back in Brazil. CBS12 encountered a Brazilian TV crew this week in Miami, reporting on Barbieri’s initial court appearances.
Attorney Kaplan says based on his background in the FBI, he expects agents to also look into the possibility of “straw buyers” helping amass the weapons for shipment.
Barbieri is potentially looking at 40 years in prison.