On July 27, an Indiana man admitted to his role in weapon trafficking in connection with Alphabay arms trafficking. Benjamin Donald Brunni—a 19-year-old from Greensburg, Indiana—drove from Indiana to New Jersey to sell an Alphabay buyer 10 firearms. Law enforcement, as often the case in weapons deals, had posed as the Alphabay buyer, and ultimately trapped Brunni.
Brunni, along with his co-defendant Nicholas Michael Albertson, maintained an Alphabay presence where they showed an interest in both purchasing and selling firearms, according to HSI special agents. The co-defendant, Albertson, pleaded guilty to the same charge on July 14, 2017. Federal agents charged both men with one count of transporting and selling firearms without a license.
“This guilty plea serves as a stern warning about the consequences awaiting arms traffickers who think the Darknet is a safe haven to conduct illegal activities,” said the acting SA in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Newark, Debra Parker. “HSI will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to hold criminals, who use anonymous internet software for illegal activities, accountable for their actions.”
According to court documents, starting some time before April 2013, HSI investigated firearm transactions on the darknet. Agents discovered Alphabay and subsequently that firearm transactions occurred on the marketplace. At some point, HSI agents found that Brunni maintained an active profile on the now-defunct marketplace. With apparently little conversation, undercover HSI agents struck a deal with Brunni. For $7,550, the agents agreed to buy 10 firearms in total: eight Glock semi-automatic handguns, minus their serial numbers, and two semi-automatic rifles.
Acting U.S. Attorney William F. Fitzpatrick said;
“This case highlights the danger posed by Darknet marketplaces that offer one-stop anonymous shopping for criminal services. A brief series of online communications was all it took to negotiate a $7,550 illicit firearms purchase and send Brunni and Albertson from Indiana to New Jersey to deliver an arsenal of assault rifles and untraceable handguns. Thankfully, a sophisticated undercover operation intercepted the guns and put these two out of business.”
After settling on products and prices, Brunni agreed that he would transport the forward from Indiana to a truck stop in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. In September 2016, law enforcement officers met Brunni and Albertson at the arranged location in New Jersey. Officers arrested both men and searched their Mercedes. Inside the vehicle, officers found the following weapons:
- One Smith & Wesson 5906 S-A
- Three Glock 22s;
- One Glock 17 Gen 4;
- One Glock 20;
- One Glock 26 Gen 4;
- One Glock Model 30 Pistol;
- One Glock Model 34 Pistol;
- One Ruger AR-556 assault rifle;
- One Anderson Mfg. AM-15 assault rifle.
Authorities also reported that someone had removed the serial number from every Glock. In spite of the significant number of illegally distributed weapons, the charges were not major with respect to other Alphabay-related crimes. Both men face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.