ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan announced Monday the seizure of a website located at http://lafoauto.com/, following an HSI Detroit investigation with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Visitors to the site will now find a seizure notice bearing law enforcement shields.
HSI Detroit seized the internet domain “http://lafoauto.com/” pursuant to an international arms-trafficking investigation. HSI determined that more than 350 suppressors seized by law enforcement across the county were purchased from the website and smuggled into the United States from China as automotive parts. Suppressors, also called silencers, reduce the sound and muzzle flash generated from a gunshot. Without proper license, they are illegal to purchase or possess in many U.S. states. The website advertised the suppressors as automotive components but images on the site clearly resembled firearms components.
“Investigating international arms trafficking is among HSI’s highest priorities,” said Vance Callender, HSI special agent in charge for Michigan and Ohio. “This website, operated from China, blatantly disregarded our customs laws, smuggled illegal silencers into our country, and placed the American public at risk. By shutting this website down, we keep illegal silencers off the street and protect our communities from harm.”
“This is another prime example of our commitment to keeping our communities safe,” said CBP Director of Field Operations Christopher Perry, “these collaborative efforts with our HSI and ATF partners are key to shutting down international arms trafficking operations such as http://lafoauto.com/.
HSI uses the novel approach of seizing websites involved in illegal activity to suppress illicit commerce. Using a Court order, HSI redirects the suspect website to one controlled by HSI, which posts a banner with a public service announcement warning consumers against purchasing illegal goods. While HSI has been aggressive in the seizure of Internet sites used to facilitate the sale of counterfeit goods, the seizure of http://lafoauto.com/ is the first instance in which a website wholly dedicated to illegal arms components has been seized by the agency.
This investigation was conducted with assistance from CBP and ATF.