Windsor area a 'conduit for illegal guns,' police say
38 arrested in connection to weapons with ties to Canada
The Windsor Star
Published: Friday, June 20, 2008
A former Chicago-area gun dealer looking to divest himself of his firearms stock crossed the Ambassador Bridge in a minivan in 2006 carrying 220 guns that he loaded in a Windsor storage locker before they found their way to the hands of criminals elsewhere in the province.
Ugur “Mike” Yildiz was arrested by agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) near his home in Park Ridge, Ill., on Thursday and is charged with violating the Arms Export Control Act.
On Friday the OPP, Toronto police and other agencies held a press conference in Toronto to announce 38 arrests and 443 charges in Project Blackhawk, a two-year operation that involved the tracing of guns found and seized in Canada back to Yildiz.
Two of the charges are against Windsor resident Daniel Wasiluk, 31.
“This case certainly demonstrates that Windsor is definitely a conduit for illegal guns coming in from the United States,” said Windsor police Insp. Dave Rossell.
In the ensuing two years, 25 guns that Yildiz is alleged to have imported illegally into Canada were seized by Canadian police agencies, mostly in the Greater Toronto Area. Two guns were used in attempted murder cases.
According to a criminal complaint released by the U.S. Attorney's office for Northern Illinois in Chicago, Yildiz owned and operated Chicagoland Bells, a gun shop in suburban Chicago, beginning in 2002.
Officers with the ATF conducted an inspection of the store in 2003 and found 500 violations of the Gun Control Act, and his licence to operate was revoked, but Yildiz, a Turkish national, still had more than 200 guns.
Yildiz transferred ownership of the guns from the defunct shop to his own name and at some point made contact with “Individual A”, a Canadian resident who had offered to assist him in exporting guns to Turkey.
After guns registered to Yildiz began showing up in Canada, American and Canadian authorities went to Yildiz's home to question him about the guns.
He told ATF and Canadian police that after his shop was closed he arranged to store the guns at another gun shop but it was burglarized.
He also told police he was arranging a shipment of 30 refrigeration units from Canada to Turkey with the help of “Individual A.”
“Yildiz further admitted to the agents that he loaded approximately 220 guns into the back of his green Chrysler Caravan and drove straight from his shop into Windsor,” writes ICE special agent Luke Lambert in the criminal complaint.
“Yildiz admitted at the border crossing that he did not declare the firearms he was carrying in his car, and that he had declared that the purpose of this crossing was 'to visit.' When asked why he lied to Canadian Customs about the purpose of his crossing, Yildiz told the law enforcement agents that he did not have to have to tell Canadian Customs anything.”
Yildiz told officers he met “Individual A” at the McDonalds on Huron Church Road and College Avenue and he then followed him to an unidentified storage facility where the roughly 220 guns were loaded into a unit.
The unit was locked and Yildiz told police that both he and “Individual A” had keys.
He told officers that he was offered $20,000 for the guns by “Individual A” but Yildiz demanded $30,000, which was refused.
Yildiz said he was unable to contact “Individual A” after that point.
Subsequent investigation showed that Yildiz came into Canada by the Ambassador Bridge three times for short stays in April and June 2006.
Yildiz is in custody in Chicago pending a detention hearing on Monday.
If convicted, Yildiz faces up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.