MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota man who did not have a license to buy and sell firearms is accused of purchasing dozens of assault rifles at local stores, then illegally reselling them online at a profit — to apparently help pay for his mother's mortgage and veterinary bills for a dog, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
The man has not been charged. But federal prosecutors said they are seeking the forfeiture of 60 assault rifles that were seized from his residences in October. Prosecutors said the man bought at least 81 assault rifles over three months, and re-sold 25 of them through a firearms auction website.
The man "did this without obtaining a license to deal firearms, and he continued this conduct after ATF advised him of applicable regulations that required licensure," the court documents said.
The investigation began after Mills Fleet Farm contacted the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to report that the man had been making repeated purchases of assault rifles at various store locations, including Blaine, Brooklyn Park and Carver.
ATF spokesman Robert Schmidt said he could not provide information about the case at this time.
Generally speaking, Schmidt said, it's not illegal for a gun owner to sell an individual firearm without a license, but it is against the law to "engage in the business" of dealing guns without a federal firearms license.
Schmidt said the federal firearms licenses are important for many reasons. Among them, they help the ATF regulate the industry, and they give dealers access to buyer information — so a dealer knows he is selling a gun to someone who may legally own it.
When it comes to online purchases, the seller ships the gun to a licensed dealer near the buyer's location, which would then conduct the transaction and take care of the necessary paperwork.
According to court documents in this case, an undercover ATF agent agreed to purchase a semi-automatic rifle that the man had bought at Mills Fleet Farm for about $579, including tax, but was selling online for a base price of $825.
The man changed his mind about the sale, saying that since the buyer was in Minnesota, he could purchase the gun at Mills Fleet Farm at a cheaper price. All of the man's other online sales from August through October were to buyers in other states, prosecutors said.
On the day the man cancelled the sale, the ATF got two calls from someone whom they believed to be this man, asking if he would need a federal firearms license to sell weapons online.
When asked if he was trying to make a profit, the man said: "I don't mean to make a profit, but I am," court documents said. After the ATF advised that he'd need a license, the man sold and shipped two rifles to another undercover agent at a Las Vegas address, making a profit on each weapon.
Days later, agents searched his residences and found 56 assault rifles, binders with records of fire sales, gun tags, and other items at his Lake Crystal home. They also found three rifles at his other home in Crystal, and the man turned over another rifle from his car.
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