The homebuilder sold eight unregistered short-barreled rifles to an agent he met on the Dark Web in exchange for cryptocurrency.
Michael Paul Grisham Smith, 44, of Grass Valley, was sentenced Friday in a Sacramento federal court to five years in prison for unlawful manufacturing and dealing in firearms. Court documents reveal that, over a 10-week period between December 2017 and February 2018, Smith assembled and sold a number of AR‑15‑style firearms without serial numbers to the undercover agent Homeland Security Investigations for $8,800 in bitcoin.
According to an affidavit filed on Valentines Day by HSI, an agent posed as a firearms vendor on the dark web and was contacted by Smith using the online identity of “BrotherBig” through a Swiss-based encrypted email provider about the purchase of explosives to include grenades and anti-personnel mines then morphed into selling guns. Over the next several weeks, BrotherBig negotiated two different sales, each of four AR-style short-barreled rifles. At first, he told the undercover agent that he would rather geocache the guns in a buried remote location for delivery, but the agent said a face-to-face meeting was needed instead.
Finally, with a payment of $2,000 up front, the trade was made in the parking lot of a Bass Pro Shop in Rocklin, California, afterward, the $2,400 balance was transmitted to Smith, who introduced himself only as “Marcus” to the agent in person and used a pre-paid cell phone to arrange the meet.
The four guns transferred in the first batch were all assembled from 80-percent polymer AR-lowers and had 10.75-inch barrels. All functioned when tested later by federal agents and none had serial numbers.
Smith asked the agent after the first order, “so are we gonna do four more, bro?” to which the undercover agent said he would need to check out the current set of rifles before making a call on another order. Smith then said, “that’s so awesome that you turned out not to be a fucking cop, I can’t tell you how fucking happy I am about that.”
The second batch, fitted with 7.5-inch barrels, consisted of three with 80-percent lowers and one with a Stag Arms lower that had its serial number obliterated. As in the first batch, the trade was done in the Rocklin Bass Pro’s parking lot for $2,000 in bitcoin up front and $2,400 after delivery.
A third batch, planned for Feb. 15 at Rocklin, was to be for five rifles with the same terms as before but the fifth gun to be paid for by the undercover agent trading Smith three M67 fragmentation grenades for it. Smith was taken into custody during the buy and found with the five rifles as well as a loaded Sig Sauer handgun in his possession. A search warrant of his home found a Colt revolver under a pillow on the bed, a hidden room behind the bathroom mirror with more guns, and a firearms manufacturing area. A further search yielded what Smith’s June plea bargain agreement said was “several buckets of processed marijuana,” as well as other drugs such as LSD and methamphetamine.
In sentencing memos filed with the court this summer, federal prosecutors argued Smith should receive 51 months while his lawyer asked for 46, arguing he was a family man with two children and a history of employment as a plumber, drywall hanger, and tree trimmer coupled with a “burning desire to get back to work.”
In the end, U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr gave Smith 60 months.