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An Army National Guard soldier with a Special Forces unit is accused of providing firearms in a gun-smuggling operation with buyers in China, federal authorities said.
Staff Sgt. Joe Debose, 29, was arrested May 20 in Smithfield, N.C., as a result of a sting operation, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of New York.
Debose and two Chinese nationals from New York are in custody, prosecutors said.
"The defendants in North Carolina and New York allegedly ran a pipeline of illegal firearms from the United States to China," U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said in statement. "The arrest of Debose marks the latest in a series of charges brought by this office against international gun traffickers."
From December 2010 through last month, Debose provided multiple shipments of firearms to associates who packaged them and had them sent to customers in China, the release said.
The operation was discovered when authorities in China seized a package of weapons with defaced serial numbers that had been shipped from Queens, N.Y.
Investigators traveled to China and examined the firearms, which were determined to be barred from export without a license from the U.S. State Department.
Among the weapons seized in China were those Debose had provided to his associates, the release said.
Debose, of Sanford, N.C., was carrying a loaded .45-caliber pistol when arrested, authorities said. They seized 12 more weapons intended for export.