On June 14, at JFK International Airport in New York, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspected and seized a package shipped from China and destined for a Johnston address.
“Upon inspecting the parcel for entry into the United States, CBP officers found the parcel contained a device deemed a machinegun which was (1) AR-15 ‘lightning link’ auto sear switch (a device used to turn a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic weapon),” according to a criminal complaint filed July 6 in US District Court by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent Brendan Jaffe.
The package led police to eventually execute a search warrant at 11 Everbloom Drive in Johnston.
That search — and the seizure of two firearm silencers, one attached to a rifle, and a “lightning link” —have resulted in federal charges filed against a man residing at that address.
Alessio Dandrea, 27, has now been charged by federal prosecutors, with possession of an unregistered firearm silencer and unlicensed importation/transportation of a machine gun from foreign commerce, according to a press release from US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha’s office.
“Firearm silencers and machine gun conversion devices pose a significant threat to public safety and the law enforcement community,” Johnston Police Chief Mark A. Vieira said following the raid.
Investigators determined, via Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) databases, that Dandrea was “not a licensed firearms dealer authorized to deal, import, manufacture, or collect firearms.”
Dandrea lives at 11 Everbloom Drive with his parents. On June 30, HSI Special Agent Nicholas Conforti applied for and received a search warrant for the home. It was executed on the morning of July 6.
According to the criminal complaint, law enforcement officers found approximately 27 firearms, consisting of rifles, pistols, and shotguns inside the residence.
“The defendant was initially present in the residence during the execution of search warrant and was later moved outside to the rear patio of the residence while the search was conducted,” Jaffe wrote. “In addition to these firearms, two devices consistent in appearance with firearm silencers. One of these devices was attached to the barrel of a semi-automatic rifle inside the residence, while another was found in a weapon storage case.”
The alleged silencers “were black and cylindrical in appearance with no markings, and a visual inspection of the device’s bore revealed that the inside of these devices contained baffles, akin to a firearm silencer.” They were sent for testing and laboratory analysis.
According to the criminal complaint, a “lightning link” device is designed to modify the semiautomatic function/capability of an AR-15 rifle and can be installed in a matter of seconds.
“Generally speaking, in order to fire an AR-15, the shooter is required to pull the trigger of the firearm every time to fire a round or a bullet,” Jaffe wrote. “Once the device (Lightning Link Auto Sear) is installed the trigger no longer has to be pulled every time to fire a round, the trigger only needs to be pulled once to initiate a continuous burst of fire.”
HSI officers, ATF agents and Johnston Police all helped execute the search warrant. According to Cunha’s office, the search “resulted in the seizure of six firearms and two firearm silencers” (although around 27 guns were found, only six were seized).
“An investigation into Dandrea revealed that the two silencers were not registered to him, rendering their possession illegal under federal law,” according to Cunha’s office.
During the search, Dandrea’s father arrived and spoke with investigators, helping to identify which of the firearms found in the residence were his, and which belonged to his son, according to the criminal complaint.
“Dandrea’s father identified the three AR-style rifles (which are compatible with a lightning link auto sear) and the two suspected firearm silencers as belonging to Dandrea,” Jaffe wrote.
Investigators also completed a “cursory review” of Dandrea’s phone.
They allegedly found a “photograph of the three AR-style rifles, one of which had the suspected suppressor attached to it” and an image “of the tracking number for the subject parcel for the seized parcel containing the lightning link.”
“The seized (lightning link) is classified as a machine gun by the ATF and is designed to modify the semi-automatic function/capability of an AR-15, rendering it capable of firing as an automatic weapon,” according to Cunha’s press release. “The possession or transfer of an unregistered drop-in auto sear is prohibited by the National Firearms Act.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney G. Michael Seaman will prosecute the case, which was the result of a combined local and federal law enforcement effort. HSI worked with the US Postal Inspection Service, ATF agents, and also assistance from the Johnston, Warwick, Providence, Central Falls, and Pawtucket Police departments as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program.
“In this case, federal law enforcement agencies led a coordinated response partnering with local law enforcement to remove these dangerous firearm devices from our community,” Vieira said. “This case demonstrates how strong partnerships among all levels of law enforcement are effective in combating illegal firearm possession and preventing gun violence.”
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