An Orange County man and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who works at Los Angeles International Airport, and his brother, a New York City police officer, were arrested on charges of international arms trafficking this week.
Customs and border Officer Wilfredo Maralit of Garden Grove was to make his first appearance in a Santa Ana courtroom Friday afternoon, when it is expected his case will be reassigned to New York, according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
Maralit's brother, Rex Maralit, a New York policeman, made his first appearance in a New York courtroom, and authorities were working on arresting another brother, Ariel Maralit, in the Philippines, according to federal prosecutors.
The three are charged with conspiring to export high-powered weapons from the U.S. to the Philippines without a license from the U.S. State Department, as well as conspiring to engage in unlicensed firearms dealing.
"According to the complaint, between January 2009 and March 2013, the defendants engaged in a scheme to smuggle high-powered assault rifles, sniper rifles, pistols and firearm accessories from the United States to the Philippines, where they were sold to overseas customers," a statement from the DOJ says.
The agency alleges one brother who lives in the Philippines would identify customers, and then use his brothers' law enforcement connections to purchase and ship the weapons.
“The defendants are alleged to have illegally exported some of the world’s most powerful firearms with complete disregard as to who the end user would be,” said James T. Hayes Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of HSI New York.
Federal prosecutors say the men even used their law enforcement credentials to get discounts on some of the weapons.
The men each face up to five years in prison and fines up to $250,000, according to the DOJ.
— City News Service contributed to this report.