Plea in international weapons dealing case

WHEELING – Wheeling resident Michael S. Frank could spend the next 25 years in prison after pleading guilty in federal court to dealing weapons overseas.

U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld II said Frank, a 25-year-old military veteran, admitted to selling 24 firearms to buyers in Israel and Canada over a period of several months last year. He will be sentenced at a later date in U.S. District Court in Wheeling on one count each of conspiracy to export firearms and money laundering.

Frank purchased guns from local retailers – at least 20 between March and his July 16 arrest, court documents indicate – and obliterated the serial numbers before shipping them overseas using multiple aliases and false return addresses. At least one of the sales involved an illegal money laundering transaction, Ihlenfeld said.

The federal probe into Frank’s activities began in May when Interpol officials in Jerusalem intercepted a package containing ammunition magazines and part of a Glock pistol that authorities traced back to a credit card in Frank’s name. Further investigation revealed he shipped multiple packages containing guns and Tasers, and received a package from Montreal that contained $2,000 in cash with serial numbers matching bills he used to buy guns in Wheeling the next day.

According to court documents, a July 16 search of Frank’s home turned up a loaded Bushmaster rifle next to his bed, a bulletproof vest, face shield and helmet, more than a dozen Tasers and several sets of brass knuckles.

In addition to a possible 25-year prison term, Frank faces a fine of up to $750,000. Court documents indicate Frank had been receiving counseling through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and was enrolled at West Virginia Northern Community College on the GI bill at the time of his arrest.

He remains free on bond pending his sentencing hearing.