SEATTLE — Two brothers arrested in June for a scheme to ship firearms parts to Thailand have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle to conspiracy to illegally export firearms parts.
Nares Lekhakul, 36, a permanent U.S. resident living in Bellevue, pleaded guilty Tuesday. His brother, Naris Lekhakul, 42, a Thai citizen arrested at Sea-Tac International Airport in June, pleaded guilty last week. Both men are scheduled to be sentenced in January.
In plea agreements, the brothers admitted Naris, while living in Thailand, would order firearms parts he wanted shipped overseas. Investigators say the gun parts were first sent to his brother’s home in Bellevue. They say Narie Lekhakul then tried to disguise the shipments and send them on to Thailand.
Investigators say after one shipment was seized in 2011, Naris recruited four other people to receive the shipments of firearms parts, disguise them, and send them on to Thailand. The others never obtained appropriate licenses to make the shipments.
The co-conspirators would use fake names and fake invoices to try to avoid detection. Federal authorities say they also tried to pack various firearms parts in a way that would avoid detection by x-ray scanners.
In one case, investigators say they shipped magazines for .45 caliber handguns, while labeling them, “vented steel case for electronic components” or “replacement springs and metal caps for bottling machine.”
Other shipments were labeled as “hobby parts” or “glow in the dark marker sets.”
In all, the group is believed to be responsible for more than 240 shipments of restricted firearms components. The defendants did not ship any assembled firearms.
Prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence of four years in prison for Naris Lekhakul, and two-and-a-half years for his brother, Nares.
The four other suspects have also pleaded guilty, including two U.S. citizens in Los Angeles, a Thai national living in Berkeley, Calif., and another immigrant from Thailand living in Las Vegas.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.