U.S. official convicted in weapon sales Prosecutors say Baltimorean exported guns to Dominican Republic, didn't report cash.

September 23, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

A State Department regional security official from Baltimore who worked at the U.S. embassies in Antigua and the Dominican Republic has been convicted of illegally exporting weapons and committing three other federal crimes tied to his sales of guns for profit in the islands.

George R. Mitchell, 42, of the 3500 block of Menlo Drive, was convicted Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by a jury that ,, deliberated slightly less than two days at the end of a three-week trial.

The jury convicted Mitchell of the weapons exportation count, the most serious in the indictment; accepting illegal payments for using his official status to avoid customs duties on eight vehicles he exported for sales in the islands; and two counts of failing to report his importation of cash from those sales into this country.

Mitchell, a 14-year veteran State Department official, was acquitted of four other charges, including the alleged theft of more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition that prosecutors said he used to supply his gun buyers, and a charge of making false statements to obtain the weapons.

Prosecutors Stuart A. Berman and Robert M. Thomas Jr. presented trial evidence that Mitchell bought 37 .38-caliber and 9mm pistols without a license, and shipped a total of 62 pistols to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in late 1989 and early 1990, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act and without an export license.

The prosecution also contended that Mitchell sold Jeeps and other vehicles to contract security officers hired by the State Department in the islands, and that he smuggled thousands of dollars in cash into the United States without reporting it to U.S. customs officials, as required by federal law.

According to trial evidence, Mitchell bought 37 of the weapons from Valley Police Supply, a licensed gun dealer on Harford Road, after telling the dealer that he was authorized by the State Department to buy the weapons for a civilian security contractor at the embassy in Santo Domingo.

The evidence also showed that Mitchell sold 50 of the pistols to the security contractor and sold the other 12 to "private individuals" in Santo Domingo, all for profit.

Mitchell, who testified late in the trial, contended that he believed he was acting within the law when he obtained the weapons for embassy security forces to replace guns he thought were inadequate.

Mitchell was relieved of his security duties at the embassies after his indictment last fall. He has been working since then in an administrative job at the State Department in Washington.

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