'Guns smuggled by Fil-Am brothers would make Bourne jealous'
SANTA ANA, California - Wilfredo Maralit, the Filipino-American customs and border patrol officer accused of running a gun smuggling ring with his brothers, appeared in a federal court on Friday afternoon for a bond hearing.
The 48-year-old was handcuffed, wearing street clothes. Federal prosecutors and Maralit’s public defender argued that Maralit, who grew up in the Philippines, poses a flight and danger risk as a law enforcement officer with international ties and a collection of weapons.
However, after federal judge Arthur Nakazado repeatedly told Maralit that as a customs officer with extensive training in export laws, "he should have known better."
But he eventually granted Maralit a $300,000 bond, and conditions which include, GPS monitoring, the surrender of all his guns, and passports.
The man who once patrolled the Los Angeles International Airport is now banned from entering any travel terminals.
The Maralit brothers are accused of illegally exporting weapons to the Philippines without a license since 2009.
According to the federal complaint, the Philippine-based Ariel Maralit would find gun buyers in the Philippines. He would then request his brothers, the California-based Wilfredo, and Rex, a New York Police Department cop to locate the weapons through US-based dealers.
Federal officers claim that in some cases, Wilfredo and Rex used their law enforcement credentials to obtain the high power weapons which include armor piercing rifles and other assault weapons which according to Judge Nakazado, "would make Jason Bourne jealous," referring to the spy movie series.
Wilfredo and Rex would then allegedly ship the guns and some parts with misleading content declarations to the Philippines.
Wilfredo’s wife attended the Friday hearing, but exited through a back door avoiding the media. The unauthorized arms export charges carry a 5 year prison sentence for each brother.
The Justice Department says it is working with Philippine law officials to extradite Ariel, where he will face charges alongside his brothers.
Investigators said they found unsecured weapons in Rex’s New Jersey home, where his 3 children also lived. They believe he had also worked as an intelligence officer in the Philippines in the 1990s.
If Wilfredo cannot meet the strict conditions of his bond by September 19, he will remain in the custody of US marshals who will take him straight to New York for a September 23 court date, alongside his brother Rex.