A Kansas man pleaded guilty on Monday to illegally smuggling weapons to buyers in England, Ireland, and Australia.
Michael Andrew Ryan, a 35-year-old man from Manhattan, Kansas, is accused of selling weapons to international buyers on anonymous dark net black markets. He faces a total of 18 charges in the case.
Ryan is said to have operated the illicit online business under the aliases that included GunRunner and Brad Jones.
International buyers paid in Bitcoin, the pseudonymous digital currency that's the money of choice on many black markets. Buyers and sellers meet on black markets on the dark net (aka the dark web), the eye-catching name for anonymity networks that help to disguise the identity and location of users.
Anonymity networks are used by a wide variety of people including human rights activists, the American military, journalists, and criminals selling illegal goods.
The products Ryan is charged with selling included:
- A Beretta pistol and Taurus .38 Special revolver with scratched off serial numbers, magazines, and ammo sold and shipped to Cork, Ireland.
- Two Glock pistols with scratched off serial numbers, magazines, and ammo sold and shipped to Cork, Ireland.
- A .22-caliber IWI Uzi with scratched off serial number, magazine, and ammo sold and shipped to Pinner, England
- A .45-caliber Hi Point, magazine, and ammo sold and shipped to Edinburgh, Scotland.
- A Walther 22 P22 pistol, and a magazine sold and shipped to Victoria, Australia.
- Two Glock pistols with scratched off serial numbers, magazines, and ammo sold and shipped to Mallow, Ireland.
“With a computer and an internet connection, Ryan hosted an international arms trafficking business on the dark web, peddling firearms and ammunition throughout the world,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said in a statement.
“The fact that international firearms trafficking has reached Kansas shows the power of the internet,” acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said in a statement following Ryan's guilty plea. “This prosecution shows our law enforcement efforts are working.”
Court documents leave a lot of gaps in the public's understanding of this case. It's not clear which dark net market was used or how exactly Ryan was caught.
Ryan will be sentenced on Sept. 12.