Montana man found guilty after trial in Uzi parts case

A former Forest Service firefighter, charged with selling a number of Uzi parts kits he partially welded together, was found guilty Thursday in federal court of dealing in firearms without a license.

Kyle Robert Wick, 31, of Stevensville, Montana, was the subject of a three-year federal investigation over the kits he sold online that led him to face over a dozen charges in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

According to court documents, in April 2013, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents in Michigan found a listing for an Uzi parts kit on Gunbroker.com that, from what they could tell, seemed improperly demilled and, though still in pieces, was actually a complete firearm under the law.

Making contact through a confidential informant the next month who arranged to buy a kit for $1,200, agents in Montana took possession of the parts once they hit the U.S. Postal Service. The ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch deemed the package to be an unregistered machine gun under the National Firearms Act due to the fact there was no blocking bar welded into the receiver or included in the kit. When installed, the bar prevents the receiver from using full-auto internals.

This led to a subpoena of Wick’s transactions through Gunbroker and a federal search warrant on his residence 10 months later. Wick told agents he had sold several dozen Uzi kits he welded together in his garage through the site over a four-year period and did not have a manufacturing license.

Throughout the summer of 2014, the ATF tracked down kits from sales records in Florida, Ohio, Texas, Montana, Kentucky, Arizona, and Hawaii, recovering 14 that were deemed to lack the blocking bar.

Wick was originally charged last October with three counts of dealing in firearms not registered under the NFA, and one count each of selling firearms without a license and possession of an illegal machine gun.

The government contended in their indictment that between March 2013 and March 2014 Wick possessed and transferred at least 10 Uzi parts kits/receivers that could be readily restored to a working machine gun. As the case moved to trial, the charges mounted until he faced a count for each gun transferred.

The maximum fines for all counts tallied up to 115 years in prison and $2.75 million in fines.

At trial this week, Wick pointed out that some of the kits recovered had parts he never used and that some receivers didn’t match photos he took of the parts before sending them to a buyer, as reported by the Missoulian, casting doubt over whether the items the ATF recovered were in fact the items that were sold.

Five charges were dropped by the U.S. Attorney’s Office during the course of the trial.

At the end of the three-day trial in which included more than seven hours of deliberation by the jury, Wick was found not guilty on all charges but one, a single count of manufacturing and dealing in firearms without a license.

“The U.S. Department of Justice is dedicated to enforcing our existing gun laws and to ensuring that gun sales are conducted only by reputable dealers in compliance with the law,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter in a statement. “The Jury’s verdict in this case reinforces the truth that nobody is above these laws, and that individuals like Mr. Wick, who attempt to circumvent them, will be held accountable.”

Wick is facing up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines on his guilty verdict. Sentencing is set for July 22, 2016 before U.S. Chief District Judge Dana Christensen, a 2011 appointment by President Obama.