04/05/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Smith & Wesson Executive Indicted in FBI Sting

The S.H.O.T. (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show is the annual event for the gun industry. Imagine the auto show in Detroit.


Then replace the cars with guns, and be sure to hold it in some place that's hot with lax gun laws, and you have the S.H.O.T. Show. For the industry and by the industry, the Show is closed to the general public.

This year, however, joining Show attendees in Las Vegas were agents of the FBI. As reported by the New York Times:

22 top-level executives, including a senior sales executive at Smith & Wesson, were arrested in what Justice Department officials called the first undercover sting ever aimed at violations of the federal ban on corporate bribes paid to get foreign business....The case is the biggest prosecution of individuals for foreign corporate bribery ever pursued by the Justice Department.

As an article later published in the Times detailed:

Amaro Goncalves, 49, vice president of sales for the Springfield-based gunmaker, and the other defendants were arrested Monday in Las Vegas while attending a trade show.

Goncalves and the other executives from various arms and military suppliers are charged with violating the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and conspiracy to launder money. Federal prosecutors say the charges came after an undercover sting lasting more than two years.

The defendants allegedly agreed to pay an illegal 20 percent ''commission'' to a sales agent they believed represented the defense minister for an unnamed African country. The sales agent was actually an undercover FBI agent, and no defense minister was involved at all.

According to the indictment, the 22 defendants created two price quotations: one with the actual price of the products, and one with illegal ''commissions'' added as bribes for the country's defense minister and the sales agent.

The indictment alleges Goncalves arranged an initial sale of 25 handguns for $12,495 and paid the ''commission.''

Then, the indictment says, he met four months later with someone he believed was a sales agent for the African country and struck another deal for 1,800 more pistols that also included the 20 percent extra.

Reaction from the pro-gun blogosphere ranged from 'aha!' to 'uh oh.' On the web site Prison Planet--which includes ads for various anti-Obama publications and DVDs, as well as the book Understanding And Surviving Martial Law--How To Survive And Even Prosper During The Coming Police State--an article titled "Obama Justice Department Decapitates Gun Industry: FBI Arrest 21 Gun Industry Executives in Las Vegas to Attend Gun Show" states, "Since the election of Obama the main question for gun owners has been, 'when will Obama come after the guns'? It looks like that question has been answered!"

Yet some of the comments on the pro-gun The Firearm Blog expressed concerns on how the arrests would play out with the general public:

  • Just what S&W did not need.
  • What in the hell? Thats crazy... Not gonna be good PR for Smith.
  • Ouch. That's BAD publicity.
  • Wow. Not good for the firearms community.

Unfortunately, in the paranoid atmosphere that both the gun lobby and the gun industry have helped create, there's little doubt as to which of these two perspectives will take root and grow.