TULALIP — As far as gun smuggling operations go, the one based in Tulalip was not the world’s most sophisticated.
“Used becycle part,” read a postal declaration for one box, shipped from a post office in Marysville.
Yet the damage could have been catastrophic.
After shipping the boxes, the smuggler learned the guns were going to a “Neo Nazi group” and a terrorist group that was “likely to commit violent crimes against refugees in Sweden,” according to the man’s statements, as recounted in a sentencing memorandum filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
The sender had given the names Edward Valentine, Edward Tucker, Edward Becker, David Becker. The Everett return address for Mr. Becker does not exist. In the case that eventually tipped off authorities in 2017, the box had supposedly been sent by Ben Manacker.
In reality, his name was Hany Veletanlic, 36, a Bosnian immigrant living in Tulalip. U.S. District Court Judge James Robart sentenced him Monday to seven years and one month behind bars, after he was found guilty of violating the Arms Export Control Act, illegally possessing two unregistered silencers and a firearm with an obliterated serial number.
Swedish authorities intercepted the Manacker package in February 2017, destined for a man with a history of trafficking in drugs and guns. The “bike part” inside was actually part of a Glock. The return address in Shoreline does not exist, and it had been mailed from a post office north of Marysville.
A postal inspector and federal agents found at least three other packages of supposed bike parts that appeared to have the same handwriting, with return addresses in Lake Stevens and Everett. Some of the shipments purported to contain a mountain bike chain, a plastic bike grip or a Suzuki front bike shaft. Tracking numbers had been sent to a U.S. phone number — a number associated with Veletanlic.
Swedish authorities found the seized part didn’t have a serial number, but Glock was able to trace it to a specific handgun anyway because of other less obvious markings. That 9 mm pistol had a record of a sale in Lynnwood. U.S. agents spoke with the gun collector who sold it, and the man said he’d made at least five exchanges with a man he knew as Hany, a firearms expert who was sometimes his shooting buddy.
Agents tracked down Veletanlic, who told them he was an avid shooter and gun trader. He told police he’d sold a gun part on eBay to a Swedish citizen, and that afterward the buyer bought several more guns from him, outside of the website. The Swede told him to destroy serial numbers, and to use fake names and return addresses on the packages. Those later purchases were made with Bitcoin, according to Veletanlic’s report.
At one of his meetings with agents, Veletanlic showed up with a gun hidden at belt level. He claimed it was to use on himself, if needed.
“However, when agents searched the car he had driven to the meeting, they found that Veletanlic had arrived ready for a firefight,” a prosecutor wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Specifically, he had stored in his car an assault rifle, multiple extended magazines, and a cache of ammunition.”
In July 2017, Veletanlic admitted to sending about six 9 mm pistols, 9 mm ammo, a Taurus pistol slide and a Smith & Wesson kit to Sweden. In past years he’d also sent gun magazines, Glock slides and receivers and other parts to someone in Russia; more parts to Brazil; and more parts to France.
Veletanlic told agents someone in France shipped him two gun silencers but that he destroyed them. He gave agents permission to search his gun safe. Inside they found one of the supposedly destroyed silencers, and days later, Veletanlic turned in the second. Neither had been registered, and one was missing a serial number.
A federal jury found the defendant guilty on all four counts in February 2019.
Behind bars in May, an inmate reported Veletanlic had approached him and offered $80,000 to kill a person who had been listed as a witness in his trial, with instructions on where and how to acquire guns, so a gang could carry out the hit, according to an affidavit filed by a federal agent in U.S. District Court. A second inmate corroborated parts of the plot.
Veletanlic denied being behind it. His attorney noted the inmates — one accused of producing child pornography, the other convicted of impersonating an FBI agent — could not be trusted, and may have instigated the scheme themselves.
Prosecutors noted Veletanlic had admitted to writing a note where he told a friend to gather up four specific guns, and in a jail phone call, he’d told another friend he “really, really” needed him to look up addresses for his “very dear friend.”
“This defendant repeatedly lied to law enforcement, violated judges’ orders, and even schemed to harm a witness against him from the Federal Detention Center,” U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said in a prepared statement. “Even behind bars he tried to transfer guns in his control to another violent group. Such disregard for the rule of law cannot be tolerated.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.