Richard Paul: Grenades, C-4 at Durango man's home seized as part of Vegas gun-running bust

Durango's Richard Paul comes across as a helpful and chipper salesman in a just-released cyber-sheaf of court documents.

Problem is, he's accused of selling an array of machine guns and other weaponry to undercover federal officers -- and when his Durango home was raided, authorities reportedly discovered grenades and C-4 explosives.

The criminal complaint against Richard Paul, Nicholas Bickle and Andrew Kaufman gives details about the operation that led to the men's arrests, much of which took place in the Las Vegas area.

Bickle, a Navy SEAL, and Paul were apparently buddies, with Paul handling many of the transactions sketched out in the documents. At one point, for instance, he told an undercover officer that he had ten AK-47s and six handguns available at the low, low price of $1,300 a pop for the rifles and just $300 for the handguns.

Shortly thereafter, an ATF agent asked Paul if he could acquire six more AK-47s and another three semi-automatic handguns. Paul texted that he wanted to do the deal at another of his properties, in Bayfield. One of his messages reportedly read, "I'll have it all set up for you!! U want 10 k's and whatever 9's are left?"

That's service with the texting equivalent of a smile -- and as a bonus, Paul was honest about the state of the weaponry he sold. At one point, for instance, he's reported to have acknowledged, "There is still Iraqi sand in this shit."

Now, Paul and his alleged co-conspirators are the ones in the shit. Look below to read from a release from the U.S. Attorney in Nevada providing more details about the arrest, as well as to peruse the entire criminal complaint:


LAS VEGAS -- Three men, including an active duty U.S. Navy SEAL, have been arrested for conspiring to engage in prohibited firearms trafficking for allegedly selling machine guns and other firearms to an undercover law enforcement officer in Nevada and Colorado, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

Nicholas Bickle, 33, of San Diego, Richard Paul, 34, of Durango, Colorado, and Andrew Kaufman, 36, of Las Vegas, were arrested yesterday in their respective cities of residence. Paul appeared before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Durango, Colorado, yesterday afternoon, and was temporarily detained pending a detention hearing at 3:30 p.m. today. Kaufman is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge George W. Foley in Las Vegas at 3:00 p.m. today. Bickle is scheduled to appear before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in San Diego today.

The men are charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States between June 22 and October 28, 2010, specifically unlawfully engaging in firearms dealing without having paid a special tax; possessing a machinegun which was not registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record; and transferring an unregistered machinegun.

The defendants were arrested following a five-month investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), in which an undercover ATF Task Force Officer purchased 18 machineguns and 14 other firearms from the defendants in Las Vegas, and Durango, Colorado, and Bayfield, Colorado.

According to the criminal complaint, a cooperating individual advised the investigating authorities that the machineguns were smuggled into the United States by special forces military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The complaint states that defendant Bickle is a U.S. Navy SEAL assigned to a unit in the San Diego area. An ATF lab technician identified a number of the machineguns as containing a mark used by the Iraqi military to signify ownership.

If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and a $250,000 fine.

The case is being investigated by ATF, NCIS, and the LVMPD, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Drew Smith and J. Gregory Damm.

The public is reminded that a criminal complaint is a preliminary charging document and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Sean Mueller pleads guilty in Ponzi scheme that ripped off John Elway, others for $71 million."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts