by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
September 9, 2013
SANTA ANA, Calif–Wilfredo Maralit, the Los Angeles airport 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 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 includes armor piercing rifles and
other assault weapons which according to Judge Nakazado said in court,
“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 say, 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
19th, he will remain in the custody of US Marshalls who will take him
straight to New York for a July 23rd court date, alongside his brother Rex.
You may reach Steve Angeles at email@example.com for more