FilAm Brothers Plead Guilty To Gun Smuggling; Face Maximum Jail Sentence

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – A Filipino American New York police officer and his brother, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer, had pleaded guilty to “Count Two of the Superseding Indictment” for gun smuggling and faces a maximum sentence of 57 to 71 months in jail because of their acceptance of responsibility.

The sentencing period for New York police officer Rex Maralit, 45, and his big brother, Wilfredo Maralit, 49, a US Customs and Border Protection Officer assigned at the Los Angeles International Airport in California, could be further whittled down from 53 to 61 months if there will be a “global resolution”.  In addition, if their co-accused, their little brother, Ariel Maralit, 44, in the Philippines will likewise plead guilty to exporting “military grade/style” firearms to the Philippines without obtaining permit from the U.S. State Department.

According to the court transcripts of the case, the sentence can further be reduced from 41 to 51 months to “offense level at 22” if Rex and Wilfredo Maralit can convince their brother, Ariel Maralit, to come to the United States to plead guilty to the offense before the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn.

During a court hearing last June 12, 2014, when Rex and Wilfredo Maralit changed their not guilty to guilty, District Judge Allyne R. Ross warned the brothers that if they change their pleas, they could be subjected to “another prosecution for perjury or false statement if you didn’t answer them truthfully.”

Judge Ross made sure that Rex and Wilfredo Maralit had consulted with their lawyers, Michelle A. Gelernt of the Federal Defenders of New York and Louis M. Freeman of the Freeman, Nooter & Ginsberg, respectively, of the impact of their pleas.

Ross asked them of their highest educational attainments, which the brothers answered to have both finished “bachelor’s degrees.”

AUTHORIZATION FROM POTUS

They were told by the judge that violation of the Arms Export Control Act, which authorizes the President of the United States (POTUS) “to control the import and export of defense articles” established in the US Munitions List could cause them to be sentenced to a maximum prison term of up to 20 years and be fined up to $1-M, restitution and criminal forfeiture if they went forward with the trial and were found guilty.

If their pleas were accepted by the judge, the Maralit brothers were told that they can no longer “file an appeal or otherwise challenge your conviction or sentence by habeas corpus provision or any other provision of law if I impose a prison term of 71 months or less(.)”

The Maralit brothers were accused of sending military grade firearms by shipping them in boxes on board airplanes that leave from JFK international airport in New York bound for Manila between 2009 and 2013.

Freeman tried to mitigate the acts of Wilfredo by telling Judge Ross that “my client’s struggling because he told his brothers to obtain the necessary licensing paperwork. However, he came to know that they didn’t do it before they shipped it. So, the knowledge and intent is there. He’s just in a different position.”

But Judge Ross still accepted Wilfredo Maralit’s plea to Count Two of the Indictment because Wilfredo acted voluntarily when he made the plea.

Assistant US Attorney Seth DuCharme stood for the US government on behalf of U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch.

Prosecutors said Maralit had repeatedly supplied assault rifles, sniper rifles and semi-automatic weapons to “co-conspirators” in the Philippines when he was still New York City Police officer.

Maralit had reportedly accumulated a cache of dangerous weapons and munitions in unsafe condition in his own house where children also live. His “unsafe handling of firearms clearly poses a grave threat to the community, both within the United States and abroad,” prosecutors said.

Evidence against the accused included emails, photographs, shipping records, and search warrant results, among others.

US authorities are coordinating with Philippine authorities for the arrest of Ariel, accused of receiving the gun shipments labeled as “television” and placed in Balikbayan boxes coursed through Five Star RP Sea Cargo Inc. based in New Jersey.

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Photo captions:

Photo of Rex G. Maralit (From court documents)

Photo of Wilfredo G. Maralit (From court documents)

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