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German Man Sentenced to Probation for Buying Guns on Alphabay

A judge in a Bavarian courtroom sentenced a defendant to one year of probation for ordering several firearms and packages of ammunition from a vendor on the Alphabay market. However, since the man had not planned to use the guns, even the prosecutor agreed that prison was not necessary.

At a hearing at the Schwandorf District Court, District Judge Ewald Ebensperger listened to a 55-year-old man from Schwandorf explain the reasons for several illegal gun purchases. Law enforcement in Bavaria had arrested the man earlier this year after finding evidence that linked the defendant to separate gun purchases from at least three different vendors on the Alphabay market. Digital evidence indicated that the defendant had purchased his first gun on Alphabay in 2014. Even though the defendant continued to purchase guns and ammunition, he had no immediate use for any of the guns. The judge ultimately agreed that the defendant posed no threat to society and that a prison sentence would have been an unnecessary measure.

After buying a gun and ammunition from an Alphabay vendor in 2014, the defendant displayed the firearm on the wall in his apartment. The gun was an old six-shot “Single Action” revolver that served as a decoration. According to the State Office of Criminal Investigation in Munich (LKA), the old weapon was capable of firing. The defendant had even ordered ammunition for the gun in 2014. The Central Office of Cybercrime in Bavaria, the Attorney General’s Office in Bamberg, and the Customs Investigation Office in Frankfurt conducted the investigation into the 55-year-old defendant. The State Office of Criminal Investigation in Munich, however, examined the seized firearms and wrote a report with their findings.

Roughly one year after completing his first purchase from a dark web marketplace, the defendant purchased another gun from a different Alphabay vendor. He had purchased the second gun for primarily decorative purposes and historical interest in World War II. He had searched for an Alphabay vendor selling an old Walther P38. The P38 was designed for the “military” of Nazi Germany prior to World War II. The gun, a semi-automatic 9mm DA/SA pistol, was used by Germany military (postwar) through the 1960s. Modified and upgraded versions of the gun are still used in some countries. Even though the P38 was far from useless as a firearm, the 55-year-old used it the same way he had used the gun from the original purchase; he used it as decoration in a room in his apartment.

In late 2015, the defendant purchased yet another pistol. He found a vendor who specialized in converting non-lethal or less-than-lethal “weapons” into a weapon capable of firing lethal rounds. In this case, the vendor was converting the Walther PDP from a device that accepts pepper spray cartridges into a device that accepts and fires lethal cartridges. Many German and Russian gun vendors sell converted guns. Some, such as the “HK” flare guns, can fire 12 gauge shotshells with the addition of a single metal insert. In places with strict gun laws, standard firearms are often extremely expensive if purchased on the black market from locals and importing lethal weapons is both risky and expensive. However, many “alternatives” exist. Some vendors specialize in converting antique (and legally owned) firearms into useful guns. Some vendors purchase H&K P2A1 flare guns in bulk and convert them. They are much easier for the vendor to obtain and resell.

The Walther PDP has almost no historical significance (it is a modern personal defense pistol). So, it is not exactly clear why the man purchased the converted pepper spray gun; he already had a useable Walther P38 but had no desire to use it. If he needed to use a gun, the P38 would have been a much better choice. However, after the raid, the LKA reported that the former pepper spray gun had been converted into a “very functional” firearm.

After the Munich shootings, though, the defendant feared that the police would learn about his firearm purchases. So, he buried all of his guns in his backyard and left them there until his arrest. The police had to search for the guns with K-9 units. The defendant helped the police find his guns, admitted he had used bitcoin to purchase them, and showed them some of the information he had stored on his computer. The court appreciated his cooperation. “One year of probation is appropriate here,” District Judge Ebensperger said at the hearing. In addition to probation, the 55-year-old was ordered to pay a 3,000 euro fine to the court.

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