WHEELING - A military veteran from Wheeling faces multiple weapons charges after an investigation spanning three continents revealed he allegedly shipped handguns and Tasers to buyers in Israel, Canada and the United Kingdom.
U.S. Magistrate James Seibert on Thursday ordered Michael S. Frank, no age listed, released from the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville to the custody of his parents on a personal recognizance bond to await trial on charges of conspiracy to export firearms, attempting to export firearms and possession of firearms with the manufacturers' serial number removed. His release came over the objection of Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Stein, who said Frank's alleged actions make him a danger to the public.
According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Frank purchased more than 20 handguns in the Wheeling area between March and his July 16 arrest. He is accused of sending many of those guns overseas using multiple false return addresses. Court documents do not reveal the identities of Frank's alleged foreign customers.
During a July 18 detention hearing before Seibert, a U.S. Postal Service inspector from Pittsburgh testified that a search of Frank's home two days prior turned up a loaded Bushmaster rifle next to his bed, a bulletproof vest, face shield and helmet. More than a dozen Tasers and sets of brass knuckles also were found in a closet, he said.
Court documents state the federal probe began May 22 when Interpol contacted postal officials about a package intercepted in Jerusalem that contained part of a Glock pistol with the serial number obliterated and three ammunition magazines. That parcel bore the fictitious return address of someone named "Jason Silvers" living at a Wheeling Island home. Investigators later discovered the gun was purchased in Martins Ferry on April 3 using a credit card that belongs to Frank.
Further investigation revealed Frank allegedly sent at least 11 other packages bearing various fake return addresses to overseas locales including London and Calgary, the complaint notes. Customs inspections of packages allegedly mailed by Frank conducted June 29 and July 7 found Tasers disguised as cell phones and two more Glock pistols with the serial numbers obliterated.
Frank allegedly lied about the contents of those parcels, identifying the package containing the Tasers as cell phones and a flashlight and the package containing the guns as a "chalking gun."
Officials on July 5 also intercepted a package shipped to Frank from Montreal that contained $2,000 in cash, and recorded the serial numbers on the bills before allowing the parcel to be delivered. Those bills matched $1,100 in cash Frank allegedly used to purchase guns in Wheeling the following day.
During the July 18 hearing, Frank's attorney, Jay McCamic, told Seibert Frank has lived in Wheeling since he was a small child, attending St. Michael Parish School and graduating from Wheeling Central Catholic High School before entering the military. He was attending West Virginia Northern Community College on the GI bill at the time of his arrest, McCamic said, and is receiving counseling and medication through Veterans Affairs that he had been unable to get while incarcerated.
"He has not exhibited any violence toward anyone. ... This is all easily controllable ... by having certain conditions and restrictions placed upon him, allowing him to live with his parents" on Hamilton Avenue, McCamic argued.
But Stein said he considers Frank a flight risk and the items found at the home indicate he may pose a threat to the community.
"The fact that he had bulletproof vests and defensive shields would suggest that he was thinking of having a shootout with someone, maybe the police," said Stein. "These are items that one normally does not have unless one is contemplating violence."
Seibert ultimately ruled Frank could be released to the custody of his parents, provided he submit to electronic monitoring and refrain from leaving home unless accompanied by one of his parents. McCamic then asked if there was some way Frank could be allowed to continue taking his college courses, a request Seibert denied.