Grass Valley man pleads guilty to ‘dark web’ gun trafficking | TheUnion.com

Grass Valley man pleads guilty to ‘dark web’ gun trafficking

The Union staff

A Grass Valley man arrested after a months-long federal investigation involving the sale of illegal AR-15 rifles pleaded guilty on Friday to one count of unlawful dealing and manufacturing in firearms.

Michael Paul Smith, 44, was arrested in February after local and federal officers descended on his Towle Lane home.

According to a federal affidavit, agents began investigating Smith on Oct. 5, 2017, after he contacted an undercover agent on the dark web — a hidden portion of the internet used for illicit activity. Smith reportedly discussed buying grenades, explosives and anti-personnel mines. He also negotiated the sale of "ghost" AR-15 short-barreled semi-automatic rifles, selling eight total to the agent on two occasions.

Michael Smith then negotiated the sale of AR-15s. The transaction — using $4,400 in Bitcoin — happened Dec. 1 at the Bass Pro Shops in Rocklin, the affidavit states. Authorities sent the rifles purchased from Michael Smith to a testing facility. All fired successfully, documents state.

Negotiations between Michael Smith and the undercover agent continued about a week later, and a second sale occurred Jan. 4, again at Bass Pro Shops. He and the agent then began discussing a third sale prior to his February arrest. Smith was arrested Feb. 15, and a search of his home reportedly yielded more firearms, methamphetamine and LSD.

Smith's sentencing is set to take place on Sept. 7 in U.S. District Court in Sacramento. The maximum penalty for the offense is five years in prison.

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Smith's wife, Julie Mae Smith, 42, also was arrested in February and faces local charges of possession of a controlled substance while armed. She is set to enter a plea on June 28.