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Former Iowa police chief could face prison for gun sales

Former Iowa police chief could face prison for gun sales

(Exhibits in the criminal trial of former Adair Police Chief Bradley Wendt suggest he knowingly used his position as chief to sell machine guns through his for-profit business. (Gun photo and Facebook text messages from U,S. District Court files)

(Iowa Capital Dispatch) – Text messages and emails from a fired Iowa police chief, recently convicted of illegally dealing in automatic weapons, indicate he knowingly used his position in law enforcement to acquire machine guns for himself and his for-profit business. The Iowa Capital Dispatch reports, according to court exhibits, former Adair Police Chief Bradley Wendt wrote to an associate in 2019, “This chief (of) police gig is awesome. Send machine guns to my own gun store. LOL.”

In February, a federal jury convicted the 47-year-old Wendt of conspiring to make false statements to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, eight counts of making such false statements himself, and illegal possession of a machine gun.

Beginning in 2017, Wendt served as the chief of police in Adair while also working as the owner of BW Outfitters, a federally licensed firearms dealer with locations in Anita and Denison. Prosecutors allege that between July 2018 and August 2022, Wendt used his position as Adair’s chief of police to obtain machine guns for his own personal use and profit, acquiring weapons for concocted law enforcement purposes and then selling them to others through his private company.

Wendt was also accused of selling guns to the Adair Police Department at a profit and of renting out city-owned guns for his personal profit. Generally, machine guns made after May 1986 are illegal to transfer and possess – but an exemption exists for law enforcement agencies, which can buy machine guns for their official use. Dealers can also acquire machine guns to demonstrate to a police department for the department’s potential purchase. If a police department wants to purchase, or receive a demonstration of, a machine gun, it must submit a letter to the ATF, referred to as a “law letter,” expressing its need for and interest in the machine gun.


Exhibits in the criminal trial of former Adair Police Chief Bradley Wendt suggest he knowingly used his position as chief to sell machine guns through his for-profit business. (Gun photo and Facebook text messages from U,S. District Court files)

Between July 2018 and August 2022, Wendt wrote nearly 40 such law letters, requesting the purchase or demonstration of 90 machine guns for the Adair Police Department, which had a total staff of two full-time officers, Wendt included. In the law letters to purchase machine guns for his two-man department, Wendt claimed to be buying the machine guns for the official use of his department and asserted he was not acquiring them for resale.

At trial, prosecutors said the evidence showed Wendt purchased an M134 motor-driven Gatling gun — capable of firing 50 rounds per second and typically used on military helicopters — that he mounted to his personally owned, armored Humvee. In his initial efforts to facilitate that sale, Wendt allegedly wrote a letter, as chief of police, to himself as the owner of BW Outfitters, claiming the Adair Police Department was considering purchasing the weapon due to its ability to lay down “suppressive fire.”

In another instance, prosecutors alleged, Wendt purchased three machine guns for $2,000 each, then sold two of them to a Florida buyer for a total of $50,000. Those guns had been registered to the Adair Police Department.

Wendt now faces up to five years in prison on the conspiracy count, five years in prison for each of the eight false-statement charges, and up to 10 years’ prison for illegal possession of a machine gun. Sentencing is scheduled for July 1.

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