The federal government is moving ahead with a forfeiture proceeding for a 105 mm Howitzer from a Globe company that illegally tried to sell it three years ago, court records show.
The modern cannon doesn't work and was being used as a front yard "lawn ornament" at the home of partner in the company, former Gila County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Bigando.
But firearms agents claim the weapon could have been easily modified to become operational.
The case, as documented in a new legal filing by the U.S. Justice Department, seems to prove how easy it might be for terrorists or drug cartel members to get ahold of serious firepower.
Bigando, also named as Richard in yesterday's federal filing for the forfeiture, had been convicted in late 2007 for selling and transferring 8,000 pounds of M-3 artillery propellant to "unlicensed" buyers in New Mexico. Part of his plea agreement included the revocation of his rights to own or possess any kinds of firearms.
Bigando was both a partner in the Globe company, Damage LLC, and a sworn deputy when he was put on probation for one year.
|Image: Video still by Damage, LLC.|
|A uniformed sheriff's deputy -- we're guessing that's Robert Bigando -- watches someone fire a machine gun in a Damage, LLC, video.|
In the summer of 2008, Special Agent Sean Sanders of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms noticed several online ads for firearms that were traced back to Bigando.
One in particular caught the eye of federal agents: It was for a M119A1 105mm Howitzer.
The September 13, 2008 ad, signed by "Bob," informed potential buyers that the big gun didn't currently work but was expected to be a "live, functioning, registered and most importantly transferable piece" by that December. No price was listed.
As the feds worked their case, Bigando and one of his partners at Damage, LLC, Tanner Hunsaker, set about trying to make their purchase kosher. They submitted an Application to Make and Register a Firearm in October of 2008. The paperwork was received by ATF three days before agents raided Bigando's Globe home at 8150 South Ice Canyon Road and seized the ominous "lawn ornament" from his front yard.
Courts records state that Damage, LLC, was licensed to make firearms by the ATF, but not to make or possess Howitzers, which the ATF classifies as a "destructive device," and not a firearm.
Hunsaker and Bigando admitted to authorities that they drove to Florida in August or September of 2008 and paid $26,000 for the Howitzer, which they transported to Bigando's home on a trailer.
After the ATF began forfeiture proceedings in 2009, Hunsaker -- the company president -- filed a claim for the Howitzer, claiming it was his.
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In the August 10, 2011 filing by the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office, however, the government says it wants to keep the seized artillery.
Hunsaker, reached today by phone, tells New Times he'll confer with his partner and possibly call back.
Meantime, we found a Damage, LLC, video online -- uploaded by "Dangerous Bob" -- of a bunch of dudes shooting machine guns and big artillery pieces out in the desert. Poor desert.
Once the feds get ahold of this gun, they'll probably just auction it off to another set of big-gun aficionados. Or maybe Sheriff Joe Arpaio will mount it on a tank next to his .50 caliber machine gun.