An international gun smuggling investigation has resulted in the arrest of a Vernon man.
The charges follow an extensive 10-month undercover investigation by B.C.’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC) that spanned from the communities of Vernon, Penticton, Summerland, Sparwood and the Lower Mainland to Florida, Montana and Louisiana in the U.S.
The allegations involve the purchase of devices that turned firearms into automatic pistols and rifles. Some of the guns were re-engineered from decommissioned weapons, and investigators came across magazines that were meant to be five or 10 rounds that had been increased in capacity to 75 rounds.
Close to 80 firearms, over-capacity magazines and thousands of rounds of ammunition were recovered during the investigation.
Some of the weapons seized were found in Vernon.
Over the weekend, CFSEU-BC executed search warrants at a residence on Mountridge Road in Vernon, as well as at homes in Penticton and a storage locker in Summerland.
The suspect from Vernon was arrested in the city, and not without incident.
“As the officers went to arrest the man, he allegedly pulled a handgun that he had hidden on him, and allegedly tried to take guns away from two officers,” said Sgt. Lindsey Houghton with CFSEU-BC.
Simultaneous warrants were executed by American authorities, who seized an additional 10 firearms.
Some of the weapons had a street value of $4,500 and, stated CFSEU-BC, likely made their way to gang members.
“Gang violence starts with ready access to weapons,” said Chief Officer Dan Malo with CFSEU-BC. “Depending on the type of ammunition used, the rounds for these kinds of firearms are capable of passing through vehicles, doors, walls and even body armour. That is an unacceptable risk to the public and police.”
Four Canadian men and one American woman are facing numerous gun charges.
To date, Riley Stewart Kotz, 32, of Vernon is facing 34 counts with further charges anticipated against him and the remaining individuals arrested during the investigation.
Houghton said the other three Canadian men arrested are believed to be from the Penticton area.