Gardaí welcome jailing of dark net US weapons dealer

Garda intelligence role pivotal to conviction of Kansas gunrunner Michael Ryan

Gardaí have welcomed the jailing of a gun dealer in America after he was convicted of gunrunning to several countries, including Ireland.

The conviction follows an international investigation involving gardaí in Cork and the Garda Ballistic Unit in Dublin.

A senior Garda spokesman said the jailing of Michael Andrew Ryan (36) from Manhattan, Kansas, for more than four years was an important case in that it showed that gardaí had the capacity to work closely with international agencies to combat a growing problem of gun dealing on the internet.

Ryan, also known as Brad Jones and GunRunner, was identified by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (AFT) following work by gardaí in Cork, assisted by Customs officers, who made a control delivery of handguns and ammunition to addresses in Cork city and Mallow.


The serial numbers had been removed from a cache of Glock pistols and other weapons. But Garda forensic and ballistic experts were able to establish the original serial numbers which gardaí then supplied to the AFT.

That agency then traced the guns to Ryan.

Ryan pleaded guilty in a Kansas court last year to sending a Beretta 9mm pistol, a Taurus. 38 Special revolver, a 15-round 9mm magazine, 32 rounds of 9mm ammunition; one round of .380mm ammunition and 41 rounds of .40mm calibre ammunition to addresses in Cork city

Ryan also pleaded guilty to sending or trying to send a Glock model 27, .40 calibre pistol, a Glock model 22, .40 calibre pistol, a nine-round magazine for a .40 calibre Glock, a 10-round magazine for a .40 calibre Glock; and 10 rounds of 9mm ammunition to two addresses in the Mallow area.

Ryan had bought the Beretta and Taurus guns destined for Cork in the name of Marlo Martin. He bought the Glocks, which he sent to Mallow in the name Allison Mitchell, before removing their serial numbers and dissembling them into their constituent parts.

Irish criminals

He then concealed the guns inside 8in-high Mexican statutes which he sent to Ireland using Fedex. The gardaí and Irish Customs seized the weapons which gardaí suspect had been ordered by Irish criminals rather than by any paramilitary groups.

Gardaí would not be drawn on how they learned of the gun smuggling operation. Neither would they identify who exactly ordered the weaponry, but they said they believe the weapons were ordered on the dark net or overlay network that can only be accessed with specific software.

A Garda source said that the guns – which were being bought in the US for about $3,000 or more – had been sent to people who were unaware of the actual contents of the packages addressed to them and nobody has been prosecuted in Ireland for the gun smuggling.

The offences were detected by gardaí in 2013. But it took two years for the US investigation to uncover Ryan as the smuggler. He pleaded guilty to 18 offences when he was charged in 2015 and was sentenced last month to 4¼ years in jail.

Among the offences that Ryan admitted were knowingly making false statements to licensed firearms dealers, possession of firearms from which the manufacturer’s serial numbers had been removed, altered and obliterated.

Ryan also admitted exporting and/or attempting to export these firearms in different packages from the United States to individuals located in Mallow and Cork as well as Pinner, England, Edinburgh, Scotland and Victoria, Australia.

In connection with his plea, Ryan admitted that he used a hidden internet marketplace website that sold illegal drugs and other illegal goods to unlawfully export or attempt to export firearms from the United States to Mallow and Cork as well as the other locations.

When Ryan first admitted his guilt in June 2016, assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell of the US Justice Department's Criminal Division said he had "hosted an international arms trafficking business on the dark web, peddling firearms and ammunition throughout the world".

The US Department of Justice said: “These goods included dozens of firearms, including pistols, revolvers, Uzis and Glocks, some from which the manufacturer’s serial numbers had been removed, altered or obliterated, as well as magazines and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times