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Iraqi military guns allegedly sold to undercover police

By CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Undercover agents bought 18 machine guns and 14 other firearms
  • U.S. Navy SEAL was among three men accused of selling machine guns
  • Some of the machine guns belonged to the Iraqi military
  • Informant said Special Forces personnel were bringing weapons back from overseas

(CNN) -- An active-duty U.S. Navy SEAL and two other men were arrested this week for allegedly selling machine guns and other firearms to undercover law officers in Nevada and Colorado, authorities said Thursday.

Authorities learned that machine guns were being smuggled into the United States by Special Forces personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a number of the machine guns sold bore a mark indicating ownership by the Iraqi military, according to the criminal complaint.

Daniel Bogden, United States attorney for the District of Nevada, said the Navy SEAL was Nicholas Bickle, 33, of San Diego, California, who assigned to a unit in the San Diego area. The other two men are Richard Paul, 34, of Durango, Colorado, and Andrew Kaufman, 36, of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Bickle is scheduled to appear before a U.S. magistrate judge in San Diego on Thursday.

Kaufman is to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge George W. Foley in Las Vegas at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Paul appeared before a U.S. magistrate judge in Durango, Colorado, on Wednesday afternoon and is being held pending a detention hearing Thursday afternoon.

The men are charged with conspiracy to engage in firearms dealing without having paid a special tax; possessing a machine gun that was not registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record; and transferring an unregistered machine gun, authorities said. The offenses occurred between June 22 and October 28, authorities said.

The three men were arrested after a five-month investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Authorities said an undercover ATF task force officer purchased 18 machine guns and 14 other firearms from the men in Las Vegas, Durango and Bayfield, Colorado.

If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and a $250,000 fine.