A U.S. Customs and Border Protection watch commander at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has admitted to running an illegal gun operation, authorities said.
Wei Xu, 56, of Santa Fe Springs was arrested Feb. 5 after an investigation involving undercover officers to whom Xu sold three guns out of the trunk of his car, including an “off-roster” pistol not certified for sale in California, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
He has been on unpaid administrative leave since his arrest and will be fired, said Ciaran McEvoy, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.
In court Wednesday, Xu pleaded guilty to illegally selling guns on the internet, some of which he obtained by using his power as a law enforcement official, and to creating a fake company to avoid paying taxes, prosecutors said. He also pleaded guilty to illegally possessing unregistered firearms and making false statements to a federal agency about his involvement with a Chinese company to get a secret-level security clearance.
“Mr. Xu’s public life as a federal officer masked his private greed and disrespect for the law,” U.S. Atty. Nick Hanna said in a news release. “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 that between the late 1990s and when he was arrested, Xu sold at least 99 guns without a license, some within days of buying them. Officials said he increased his profits by exploiting his status as a law enforcement officer to buy handguns that can’t be sold to the public by a federal licensed dealer.
When investigators searched Xu’s home in February, they found more than 250 weapons, including 41 machine guns and two short-barreled rifles. None was registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, officials said.
Investigators also learned that Xu, who began working at the port in 2004, was an accounts manager for a China-based auto parts import company. Prosecutors said he helped his business partners make a profit and earned a commission from his work.
But when filling out questionnaires in 2003, 2011 and 2015 for the Office of Personnel Management to obtain a secret-level security clearance, he denied having contacts with foreign nationals or a foreign financial interest, prosecutors said.
Xu also admitted that between 2005 and 2017, he set up a fake Florida-incorporated company called Trans Pacific Group Inc., which he used to claim business losses, offset his income and evade filing taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.
When asked for information about Xu’s employment with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency said: “U.S. Customs and Border Protection leadership stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission, and the overwhelming majority of CBP officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe. CBP officers take an Oath of Office, a solemn pledge that conveys great responsibility and one that should be carried out at all times with the utmost professionalism. CBP officers who disregard that oath and instead choose to violate the trust of the citizens they swore to protect are held accountable.”
Xu will be sentenced in January and faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison. He remains in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.