DOCUMENT: Internet, Crime

ATF Probe Nabs Gun Seller On Shadowy Darknet

Overseas-bound arms hidden in Xbox, DVD consoles

SEPTEMBER 10--Operating via a notorious online black market, a Kentucky man allegedly shipped foreign buyers firearms that were disassembled and hidden inside Xbox consoles and DVD players, The Smoking Gun has learned.

The firearms were destined for several countries with severe restrictions on firearm purchases and ownership.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents launched a criminal investigation into the illegal mailings in early-July, after Australian police reported that they had interdicted an Express Mail parcel containing the components of a Modelo Super 9mm pistol.

The disassembled gun was hidden inside the “interior cavity” of an Xbox gaming system, according to an affidavit sworn by ATF Agent David Hayes.

The intended recipient of the handgun was arrested and had his Australian residence searched by police. During an interview with investigators, the man revealed that he had “purchased the firearm off a website called ‘Black Market Reloaded.’”

Located on the “darknet” (or “deep web”), Black Market Reloaded is an online outpost for the sale of a wide array of narcotics and weaponry. Relying on the anonymizing tool Tor, visitors to the site also use Bitcoin, the virtual currency, to further mask their identities and cloak details of illicit transactions.

ATF agents traced back the Australia shipment to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where it had purportedly been sent by a “John Smith.” A check of postal records revealed that “Smith” mailed two other international packages on the day he sent the Australia parcel.

In mid-July, agents intercepted two international parcels at a Bowling Green post office that listed “John Smith” as the shipper. A postal clerk reported that the packages were dropped off at the counter by a “white male, about 30 years of age, having a shaved head” and tattoos on both arms. The clerk added that she had previously helped the man with past mailings, and that he “told her that he had shipped broken Xbox’s, Nintendo’s and DVD players.”

A search of one of the packages revealed that a disassembled “Uzi style pistol” (with its serial number obliterated) and a “suspected flash suppressor” were contained inside a hollow Xbox console. The package was bound for the United Kingdom. The second Express Mail package, bound for Australia, contained “various firearm parts consisting of a magazine, butt stock and fore stock for an assault rifle” concealed inside a DVD player.

In early-August, another package--headed for Sweden--was seized after it was received at a Bowling Green post office (where a mail clerk identified the shipper as the same man who had sent the two parcels that had been searched weeks earlier). The parcel contained a “metal computer switching power supply box” that contained a disassembled .22 caliber Taurus pistol and magazine.

Using credit card records, federal agents identified Adam Bunger, a 33-year-old Bowling Green resident, as a suspect in the firearm mailings. Bunger, seen in the above photo, was subsequently picked out from photo spreads by two separate mail clerks who identified him as the “John Smith” who mailed three of the international parcels.

Bunger was named yesterday in a U.S. District Court complaint charging him with several felonies, including shipping a firearm in foreign commerce. It is unclear when Bunger will make an initial appearance at the Bowling Green federal court.

Bunger and his brother Brad are partners in ArtsyQR, a mobile marketing firm that creates customized QR codes for clients. Adam Bunger, who has been identified as the Bowling Green firm’s CEO, was interviewed last year by a local TV station and newspaper about the fledgling Bowling Green firm.

In a phone interview this afternoon, Brad Bunger, 31, said he was unaware that his brother had been arrested by ATF agents. He claimed that he had not spoken to Adam in a few days, adding that his brother has recently “been acting strange.” (5 pages)