CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A man accused of buying dozens of assault weapons and illegally selling them at gun shows across the Carolinas pleaded guilty today to gun trafficking in federal court in Charlotte.
Authorities captured Michael Beas, 33, after employees at a Charlotte gun store grew suspicious of his large AK-47 purchases and voluntarily tipped off federal agents.
Court records show that for six months last year, Beas traveled to shows in Charlotte, Hickory, Atlanta, Columbia, Greenville and Myrtle Beach. Once, Beas sold parts for 12 .50-caliber weapons, the most powerful available for public sale, in a hotel parking lot off Interstate 85 in Charlotte.
Beas faces a maximum five-year sentence and $250,000 fine. U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler has ordered Beas held without bond. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled, but could be months away.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Keesler asked Beas if he was guilty of one count of illegally dealing firearms.
“Yes, I am,” Beas said.
The case is unusual in the Western District of North Carolina. U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins’ office has prosecuted only three other gun trafficking cases in the past five years.
Tompkins says agents are hampered by the lack of a system to track multiple assault weapons purchases. Even today, authorities don’t know how many guns Beas bought and sold, or who he sold them to.
Beas is accused of lying about his address and admitted his activities were to engage in the business of dealing firearms.
Prosecutors argued successfully against his release, citing concern over his ties to Bolivia. Beas has denied exporting arms to Bolivia, according to court records.
Beas’ attorney said Beas worked and lived in Greer until last year, when he had marital trouble and his wife, a native of Bolivia, left for that country. Beas, Scheer said, traveled there to save his marriage and sold guns to make money.