An Australian illegal immigrant and ex-heroin trafficker was sentenced today to two years in prison for buying guns at a Glendale gun show.
Elie Malkoun, 53, of Victoria, Australia, is a veteran of his own country's prisons, having served 10 years starting in 1989 for his role in a multimillion-dollar heroin ring.
He got married and had five kids after his release, records show, earning money by fixing up homes and boats as he struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder. Earlier this year, he thought it would be a good idea to fly to the United States for a vacation and boat-buying trip. One problem: The form needed to come here asks if the traveler has ever been convicted of drug trafficking.
The year before, Malkoun had checked "yes" on the form -- and was denied a visa. So this year, Malkoun decided to check "no." A customs agent gave him a hard time about the different responses when he arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport on March 13, but he talked his way in.
While in California, Malkoun hung out with a family friend, buying three boats and two jet skis that he intended to send home to Australia.
Border data showed that his rented Toyota sedan had gone to Mexico and back on March 19 -- supposedly, he visited Tijuana, but came back to the States the same day because he didn't like it. He drove straight from there to the Valley. His intention was to visit the Grand Canyon, his family later told authorities.
He tried to buy a gun at a Mesa gun store, but the store wouldn't sell one to the Australian. The next day, he went to the Crossroads of the West gun show at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale. Federal agents watched as he bought a Smith & Wesson 9mm in the parking lot from a couple of guys selling firearms from the back of a pickup truck. Malkoun put the gun in his sedan's trunk, then went inside the stadium, coming back out an hour later with a blue handgun case.
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Malkoun drove from Glendale onto Interstate 17 and headed north. Cops pulled him over and found the 9mm, a .45-caliber Sig Sauer Model P220, and a .38-caliber Colt Mustang Pocket Light -- plus two extended-capacity magazines. He's been at the county jail ever since.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton gave him 24 months, which was below the 30 months that prosecutors wanted, but well above the eight-to-14 months he'd hoped for. He also received three years of supervised probation, but he'll likely be deported when his prison term expires.
An interesting side-note: One of his brothers was the leader of the Victorian chapter of the Comancheros biker gang, and another brother was convicted of heroin smuggling.
Getting busted must be in the siblings' DNA.