Alleged Hampton gun runner to plead guilty
BRENTWOOD — A Hampton man facing charges in New Jersey for allegedly selling firearms through an underground Internet marketplace has struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
Matthew Crisafi, 38, of Hampton signed a plea agreement in U.S. District Court in New Jersey that is expected to settle charges that include selling firearms without a license, smuggling goods from the United States and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to court records.
Terms of the deal have not yet been made public.
Crisafi, who is free on $50,000 bail, has also indicated that he wants to plead guilty in Rockingham County Superior Court to drug charges that stem from the Nov. 7 raid of his Hampton home, according to a court order.
Police allegedly found quantities of steroids and marijuana in his home.
Federal agents and Hampton police arrested Crisafi following a months-long investigation into illegal sales of firearms through a TOR network — software used to provide anonymity online.
Crisafi tried to conceal his identity both online and in person when he brokered his first sale with an undercover federal agent, investigators said. He used the post office in the town of New Castle — about 14 miles from his home — to avoid detection from law enforcement, according to a search warrant.
Crisafi allegedly agreed to sell a Smith & Wesson .380 semi-automatic handgun in May 2013 after spending weeks negotiating with a federal agent who was posing as a buyer.
The gun was being offered for sale on the underground Web marketplace “Black Market Reloaded,” court records say. Investigators compare the BMR online marketplace, only accessible via specialized software, to a version of eBay or Amazon that sold weapons illegally.
Crisafi was paid $3,300 in Bitcoin for that first transaction, but unwittingly sent the gun to an address affiliated with an undercover operation being carried out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Special Agent Ryan Landers said in a sworn affidavit.
Once Crisafi sold his first gun to his unknown buyer, he agreed to sell three more firearms, which included a Glock Model 26, a KelTec .32 caliber semi-automatic handgun, and a Norinco SKS 7.62 semi-automatic rifle.
He offered to sell all three weapons for $8,500 total, investigators said.
Crisafi, who owns an independent trucking company, arranged to ship the weapons through New Jersey en route to Thailand, according to Landers.
The deals were communicated between the agent and Crisafi through an online private messaging system. On May 29, Crisafi suggested to his new buyer that he could broker further deals, saying in part, “the possibilities are endless once we do enough business.”
Crisafi also told investigators during his online chats that he would be willing to sell military-style, semi-automatic rifles to his buyer, but that they “would need to take additional precautions during shipment in order to evade detection by law enforcement officials.”
He allegedly explained to the agent that his price was set in part by what BMR charged him for using the site, and exchanging Bitcoin for real money.
“You are and will be preferred when it comes to price,” Crisafi allegedly wrote. “I want to make your customers happy along with a profit.”