Two Western Washington men indicted for smuggling guns to Middle East

Federal agents say they uncovered an operation to smuggle guns from Western Washington to Kurdish rebels. (Still images from video courtesy of U.S. Attorney's Office)

SEATTLE – Federal agents said they stopped a gun-smuggling operation in which weapons bought from stores around western Washington with the intention of sending them to Kurdish rebels.

Entire arsenals were hidden in the side panels of vehicles, according to court documents, until one shipment was intercepted in Turkey and two local men were arrested.

Paul Brunt of Bellevue, and Rawnd Khaleel Aldalawi, of Seattle, shipped nearly 80 guns into Turkey, prosecutors said, with the hope of arming rebels fighting the Islamic State group.

Local gun store owners said they had no idea what they were getting caught up in.

“Mr. Brunt arrived at our store, purchased four firearms, possessed valid identification, including a concealed pistol license that was issued by the Bellevue Police Department," said Jody Lewis, the owner of Rehv Arms in Covington, where four of the firearms were purchased.

Lewis added that Brunt passed the FBI background check, as well as additional security checks for domestic violence arrests.

The guns were stashed inside several vehicles that were loaded into shipping containers at the Port of Seattle, according to federal charging papers. The firearms were wrapped-up and tucked into the door panels.

Prosecutors said Aldalawi told them he has family fighting ISIS forces in Kurdistan, and paid Brunt thousands of dollars to legally purchase the weapons from gun stores throughout Puget Sound.

“I'm frankly shocked,” said Lewis. “But the law is the law. You've got to do things the right way or you're going to pay for it."

A federal grand jury indicted the two suspects for violating the Arms Export Control Act. They face arraignment next week.

The U.S. State Department maintains strict controls on arms exports. Firearms dealers must be licensed to ship anything that appears on the United States Munitions List. Violating these laws is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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