A Bellevue man pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle to charges he conspired with his brother to send out more than 240 shipments of firearm components to Thailand, along with numerous co-conspirators, until their arrests in June.
Nares Lekhakul, 36, joined his brother, Naris Lekhakul, 42, in accepting plea agreements offered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Naris Lekhakul, a Thai citizen, pleaded guilty last week and faces four years in prison if U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones honors the conditions of his plea agreement during the brothers’s sentencing on Jan. 24. Nares Lekhakul, a resident of Bellevue, faces 30 months in prison under the plea agreement.
The brothers admit to ordering the firearm components, which were first delivered to Nares Lekhakul’s Bellevue residence, and sending them to Thailand while concealed in false packaging, using false identities and invoices to avoid detection, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Four co-conspirators were brought on board following seizure of a shipment in 2011, all of whom have been arrested and pleaded guilty to their part in the illegal shipments. None of the conspirators had obtained export permits required for making the shipments.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office lists as examples of false packaging and invoices that the men shipped .45-caliber magazines labeled as vented steel cases for electronic components while other shipments were passed as hobby parts, glow-in-the-dark marker sets, etc.
Jones does not have to accept the plea agreements, and can impose any sentence up to five years in prison.