LAS VEGAS – The U.S. Navy SEAL who was convicted last fall of multiple felony weapons charges, including dealing in stolen firearms, was sentenced today to 17½ years in federal prison and three years of supervised release, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Nicholas Bickle, 34, of San Diego, was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Roger L. Hunt. Bickle was convicted by a jury in October 2011 of one count of conspiracy to unlawfully receive, transport, possess and transfer machineguns and stolen firearms and to deal in firearms; one count of dealing in firearms without a license; four counts of possession and transfer of machineguns; five counts of possession, concealment, sale and disposition of stolen firearms; one count of receiving, concealing and retaining property of the United States; and one count of transportation by and distribution of explosives to a non-licensee. The judge imposed a greater sentence because of the large number of firearms involved, the types of firearms involved, and because the firearms were stolen and trafficked. Judge Hunt also found that Bickle was a leader or organizer of the offense, and that Bickle had abused his position of trust in order to facilitate the offenses.
"The weapons trafficked in this case were not your ordinary firearms; rather, they were fully-automatic machineguns that likely would have ended up in the hands of criminals," said U.S. Attorney Bogden. "The defendant's conduct was serious, and the Court imposed a lengthy prison sentence that should serve as a deterrent to anyone who is considering trafficking in machineguns or other firearms."
"ATF works diligently with our law enforcement partners to ensure that illegal machineguns and explosives never make it to our streets," said Acting Special Agent in Charge John P. Lee. "Mr. Bickle abused the public trust inherent to the position of a Navy SEAL and today he paid the price."
The evidence at trial demonstrated that from about March 2009 to November 2010, Bickle, a Navy Seal, conspired with Richard Paul, 35,of Durango, Colorado, Andrew Kaufman, 37, and Omar Aguirre, 36, both of Las Vegas, to sell machineguns and other weapons possessed by Bickle when he returned from Iraq. The firearms included over 30 AK-47 type machineguns (some of which bore the markings or symbols of the Iraqi military forces) and multiple pistols previously procured by the United States for Iraqi security forces. Bickle transported the majority of the weapons to Nevada and Colorado where his co-conspirators sold them to others, including an undercover law enforcement agent who expressed the intent to smuggle the weapons to Mexico. Bickle received a substantial portion of the proceeds from the sales of firearms. Bickle was also convicted of unlawfully receiving and retaining government property (ammunition, explosives, grenades and optical sights) valued at more than $1,000, and unlawfully transporting and transferring approximately five pounds of C-4 explosives.
Aguirre, Paul, and Kaufman pleaded guilty prior to trial. Aguirre was sentenced in October 2011 to five years in prison. Paul and Kaufman are scheduled to be sentenced tomorrow, July 18, 2012.
The investigation was conducted by ATF, NCIS, and the LVMPD. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Timothy S. Vasquez and Phillip N. Smith, Jr.