Four sentenced to prison for exporting weapons to Hong Kong

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
TUCSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Three southern Arizona men and one woman were sentenced Wednesday to lengthy prison sentences for exporting weapons to Hong Kong.

Peter Steve Plesinger, 55, of Sahuarita and Stephen Edward Smith, 63, of Tucson were sentenced by U.S. District Judge James A. Soto to 87 months and 102 months, respectively, in prison.

Both men had previously pleaded guilty to exportation of munitions from the United States to Hong Kong, dealing firearms without a license, and money laundering. Two other defendants, Irina Cvetkovic and Earl Richmond, both of Sahuarita, also were charged and convicted for their lessor roles in the conspiracy.  

On June 27, 2014, law enforcement authorities in Hong Kong intercepted a package containing 139 rounds of ammunition that had been shipped from Arizona by Plesinger. A search of the intended recipient's Hong Kong residence resulted in the recovery of three rifles, two pistols, four rifle barrels, a silencer, and at least 9,000 rounds of ammunition.

Further investigation revealed that Plesinger had previously shipped those items to Hong Kong in packages with innocuous labels, that Plesinger had been paid at least $64,500 to ship large quantities of firearms, ammunition, and silencers to Hong Kong, and that Smith had been paid at least $59,550 for making similar shipments.  

"The sentences imposed in this case should send a strong message to those who would consider illegally exporting firearms, ammunition, or silencers to other countries," stated Acting United States Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange. "We will continue to work diligently with our national and international partners to vigorously investigate and prosecute such conduct."

"I wish to compliment the tenacity of the ATF agents and prosecuting attorneys that brought this case to a successful conclusion. Our agents left no stone unturned as they doggedly pursued these criminals and brought them to justice. ATF will continue our role in enforcing violations of the federal firearms and explosives laws both domestically and in this case internationally," stated Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Mark Murray.

"HSI, with our domestic and international law enforcement partners, is dedicated to making communities safer by bringing criminals to justice. The sentences of the defendants is a direct result of the steadfast efforts of federal agents to prevent firearms from falling into the hands of transnational criminal organizations who pose a threat to public safety both here and abroad," said Scott Brown, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Phoenix.  

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, United States Customs and Border Protection (Los Angeles), the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, the Hong Kong Police Force, and the Hong Kong Department of Justice. The prosecution was handled by Serra M. Tsethlikai and Angela Martinez, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Tucson, with substantial assistance from the Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs.

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