A Butler County man has been in the ATF's cross hairs for years, suspected of selling guns illegally.
Now, authorities believe he broke federal law at the region's biggest gun show.
It's an I-Team special report that sparked a federal investigation into the actions of that man at the Missouri Gun and Knife Show back in March.
When a southern Illinois couple came across the river to attend the show, they had no idea the guns they went home with should have never crossed state lines.
Weeks before they sat down with investigators, they reached out to me in an effort to find out more about the weapons they got from that gun show, and the man who traded for them.
They are both very good shots and describe themselves as longtime gun owners and enthusiasts.
But the couple, whose identities I'm protecting, had no idea making a trade for these handguns would make them unwitting participants in what authorities call an illegal gun deal.
"We saw the guns that we had really been interested in for a long time," the wife tells me of finding two Springfield Arms 9 millimeter handguns a local man had for sale that that show.
Numerous sources confirm the man they dealt with is from Butler County. He has reportedly bought and sold guns for years but is not a licensed dealer. I've also learned, he has been investigated in the past for possible illegal gun sales, but never charged.
Did you identify yourself as being from Illinois? I asked her.
And what did he say?
The wife says the seller suggested she get someone from Missouri to buy the guns for her.
I asked Scott Martin, a Cape Girardeau Agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, about that kind of gun show deal.
"Convicted felons will use straw purchasers because they can’t pass the background check," Martin said. “And they’ll get a person who can pass the background check to go purchase the firearm and then deliver it to them. It would be very unusual if someone, if a licensed dealer did something like that.”
The couple says the man then agreed to a trade, his two handguns and some cash for the couple's Browning shotgun and Smith and Wesson 19-11 45 automatic.
"What kind of paperwork did he have you fill out?" I asked the wife.
"Absolutely none,” she responded.
The couple went home with the guns they wanted, but also with a nagging suspicion about the deal they made.
"The more I thought about it, the more I thought, you know, maybe I should ask someone if that is, in fact, on the up and up,” she admitted.
It wasn’t, according to Agent Martin.
“If you are a licensed dealer and someone came to your shop from out of state and they wanted to buy a handgun, they could not buy that handgun at that shop,” he explained. “The dealer would ship it to a dealer in the state where that person resides and they would pick it up from that federally licensed dealer.”
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I reached out to the local man on the cell phone number his brother gave me, the same number I found on this Semo.net page under the category "Guns and Ammo" for sale.
"Hey, I'm calling you because I'm doing a story about the Missouri Gun and Knife Show back in March. You were set up at that show? Did you trade guns with a couple from Illinois and let them leave the show with those guns?" I asked him.
His answer? "I don't recall making that deal." Then, I asked about his internet sales.
"Are you selling more guns on Semo.net than you should considering you don't have a license?"
His answer? "I don't think so." A closer look at his pages shows dozens of long guns and handguns for sale.
Under federal law, if you earn a living selling guns, you must have a license.
And something caught my attention when I checked out his site on April 18, a Smith and Wesson SW 1911 .45 automatic for sale. The Illinois husband absolutely believes this is the gun he traded in Missouri.
"So, how would you have that gun if you didn't trade with him?" I asked the local man.
He once again denied making the deal then put me on hold for a solid five minutes. That's when I ended the call.
Back out at the range, the Illinois couple has decided to work with federal authorities, and share their story.
"Well I thought that, if he would do that with us not knowing who we were and what our intentions were with the gun, how many other people has he done that with who maybe don't have the best of intentions and aren't legal gun owners," the wife said.
The man in charge of the Missouri Gun and Knife Show, JD King, is aware of this report, and the man believed to have made that illegal deal.
His attorney says Mr. King plans to fully cooperate with law enforcement and looks forward in assisting them in this investigation.
In the meantime, the Butler County man has pulled all his weapons off semo.net. I'll stay on this story and bring you any updates as they become available.
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