On December 8, 2023, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas announced that a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging Chandler Bradford of New Braunfels, Texas, “with eight counts related to the smuggling of firearm parts into Mexico and a conspiracy to commit money laundering.” From January 2018 through April 2020, Bradford was a federally licensed gun dealer doing business through Center Fire Trading LLC before he voluntarily surrendered his license.
According to the indictment, beginning in June 2018, Bradford allegedly began supplying all of the parts needed to build approximately 4,800 AR-15-style rifles to an unnamed Mexican citizen without a license or permit to export firearms to Mexico. The court documents allege that Bradford provided complete upper receivers (the top halves of the rifles) that he assembled from parts he purchased in New Braunfels, “80-percent”-complete lower receivers (the bottom halves) that he purchased online from American and Chinese manufacturers, as well as “lower receiver part kits, magazines, and manufacturing tools,” including jigs and drill bits, to finish the lower receivers. In this way, the unnamed Mexican co-conspirator could “facilitate a full firearm manufacturing enterprise in northern Mexico” producing unserialized, and thus untraceable, ghost guns.
Bradford allegedly enlisted his brother-in-law, Troy Erbe, to help assemble the rifle upper receivers and package the parts for shipment. The indictment further alleges that Bradford originally shipped the parts to a mail center in Laredo, Texas, before driving them to storage units in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexico border. Once there, “the co-conspirator would unpack the boxes and repackage them so they could be smuggled to Monterrey by truck drivers in the conspiracy.”
The indictment provides more details about the alleged shipments — including at least 180 AR-15 upper receivers for building unregistered short-barreled rifles — as well as Bradford’s technical support for issues that arose during in the manufacturing process. Law enforcement seized some of the gun parts from storage units in September and October 2022 before they could be delivered.
For his efforts, Bradford was allegedly paid $3.5 million through wire transfers from multiple Mexican companies and bulk deposits made by individuals in Mexico and South Texas.
The indictment includes a list of dozens of gun parts Bradford must forfeit, including 80-percent receivers and the jigs used to complete them, which speaks to the relative ease of purchasing firearm-building components online.
Bradford has been charged with one count of conspiracy to smuggle goods from the U.S., one count of conspiracy to traffic firearms, one count of conspiracy to transfer firearms for use in a felony, four counts of aiding and abetting the smuggling of goods from the U.S., and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.