A former president of security contractor Blackwater and four other company officials have been indicted on federal weapons charges, the Associated Press reports.
Federal prosecutors indicted Gary Jackson, who was president of Blackwater until last year, on Friday in a case that stemmed from a raid on Blackwater's North Carolina headquarters in 2008, which turned up 22 automatic weapons, including 17 Russian-made AK-47s.
Along with Jackson, the other Blackwater officials charged include the company's former lawyer, Andrew Howell, former vice president Bill Matthews and two employees tasked with overseeing Blackwater's armory and documentation having to so with its status as an arms dealer.
The AP reports:
The charges open a new front of the government's oversight of the sullied security company. Several of the company's contractors have previously been charged with federal crimes for their actions in war zones, but the company's executives have so far weathered a range of investigations....
The latest case stems from a raid conducted by federal agents in 2008 that seized 22 weapons, including 17 AK-47s.
Blackwater signed agreements in 2005 in which the company financed the purchase of 34 automatic weapons for the Camden County sheriff's office. Sheriff Tony Perry became the official owner of the weapons, but Blackwater was allowed to keep most of the guns at its armory.
Federal law prohibits private parties from buying fully automatic weapons registered after 1986, but does let law enforcement agencies have them.
In February, the Senate Armed Services Committee found "reckless" use of weapons by Blackwater employees in Afghanistan, and found Blackwater staffers had removed weapons from US military facilities without proper authorization.
In one instance, a Blackwater employee signed out military weapons under the name "Eric Cartman," a character in TV's South Park.
Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services last year, as part of an effort to rebrand itself in the wake of the notorious 2007 shooting in Baghdad's Nisour Square, in which Blackwater guards opened fire on civilians, killing 17 people.
Late last year, a federal judge threw out charges against Blackwater employees in a case related to the shooting. The US government has promised to review the matter.