United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced in a press release that Joseph Raymond Berger, 67, and Joseph Paul Berger, 32, of Bethlehem, PA, were arrested and charged by Indictment this week with multiple firearms offenses including possessing machine guns, possessing non-registered firearms, and possessing non-registered silencers.
The Indictment alleges that the defendants illegally
possessed 13 fully automatic machine guns and 12 firearms silencers. According
to court documents, law enforcement agents with Customs and Border Protection
intercepted three firearms silencers that were illegally imported into the
United States in packages addressed to the defendants at their shared
residence. Investigators then obtained a search warrant for the home and
recovered from the basement the 12 firearms suppressors/silencers and 13 fully
automatic machine guns that are listed in the Indictment. The machine guns
included 11 rifles and 2 submachine guns.
According to court documents, Investigators also
uncovered evidence that the firearms found in the Berger home were originally
sold and purchased as semi-automatic firearms, which were then manually
converted into unregistered, fully automatic machine guns.
“The defendants allegedly possessed a stockpile of
unregistered fully-automatic machine guns and silencers in violation of the
National Firearms Act,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “These weapons are
extremely dangerous, which is why there are laws regulating their possession.
We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to remove dangerous
weapons from our District.”
“As the indictment alleges, possession of illegal
firearms like these, threatens the safety of the general public, especially
when in the wrong hands,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in charge of
ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “I would like to thank our local, state and
federal partners for their contributions in this investigation.”
“This father-and-son duo possessed a small artillery
of firearms in their home, including more than a dozen machine guns and
silencers. This type of fire-power is incredibly dangerous if in the wrong
hands,” said William S. Walker, Acting Special Agent in Charge of HSI
Philadelphia. “HSI Philadelphia was pleased to work alongside our partners on
this important investigation to ensure the defendants are held accountable for
their crimes and not able to terrorize this community or any other.”
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum possible
sentence of 30 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release, a $270,000 fine,
and a $300 special assessment.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security
Investigations, with assistance from Customs and Border Protection and the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is
an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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