Records show former DCI supervisor acknowledged selling guns without a license


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MADISON, Wisconsin — A former state Division of Criminal Investigation supervisor has acknowledged that he built and sold guns without a federal firearms license, a newspaper reported.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported ( ) in Sunday's editions that records it obtained from the state Justice Department show Jay Smith acknowledged in an email to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that he built and sold guns for others, but he never made a profit. He said he sold the weapons to fellow law enforcement officers, whom he called his "brothers," and simply wanted to recoup his costs. The emails also show top DOJ officials knew Smith was making and selling guns at least since 2007.

An ATF investigation into Smith last year resulted in no charges. An agency spokesman has said individual private weapons are common and that selling them without a license typically doesn't rise to a federal violation unless the seller is engaging in regular, consistent sales for profit. Buyers don't face any liability.

Dan Bethards, a former DCI agent who worked under Smith, brought forward allegations in 2012 that Smith was building and selling firearms without a license, including selling two weapons to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. DOJ spokeswoman Dana Brueck told the newspaper that any suggestion that the attorney general acted illegally is false.

Bethards was fired in October 2013 for violating state Department of Justice rules. Deputy Attorney General Kevin St. John wrote in Bethards' termination letter that Bethards' allegations against Smith were insincere and he failed to conduct himself honestly. The letter also accused Bethards of using the state email system to coordinate the purchase of firearm parts for his own gun business, All Weapons One, which Bethards ran in addition to serving as a state agent.

The records the State Journal obtained show Smith also used his state email to arrange gun sales. Brueck defended the decision not to discipline Smith over his email use. She said Bethards was disciplined for numerous and significant violations of department policy, including using state resources to conduct an ongoing business. That wasn't Smith's situation, Brueck said.

Bethards told the newspaper the records it obtained show his allegations were true. Bethards has filed a series of whistleblower complaints over his termination.

Information from: Wisconsin State Journal,

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