Watch Now

A library card is not an export license to send guns to Canada

Canadian national Alexis Vlachos, who was sentenced to prison last September, will not be able to export or receive anything from the U.S. for the next seven years, the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security said.

A Bureau of Industry and Security export denial order against Canadian Alexis Vlachos, a jailed gun smuggler, will be in place for the next seven years. [Photo Credit: Shutterstock]

Canadian national Alexis Vlachos, who began serving a four-year prison term last September after being found guilty by a federal court in Vermont of smuggling handguns into Canada, will be denied U.S. export privileges for the next seven years, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced.

“Based upon my review and consultations with BIS’ Office of Export Enforcement, including its director, and the facts available to BIS, I have decided to deny Vlachos’ export privileges under the [Export Administrations] Regulations for a period of seven years from the date of Vlachos’ conviction,” said Karen H. Nies-Vogel, BIS’ director of the Office of Export Services, in an Oct. 23 order.

Nies-Vogel also revoked any BIS-issued license in which Vlachos had an interest at the time of his conviction.

The export denial remains in place with BIS until Sept. 4, 2025.

Although Vlachos is a Canadian citizen, he will be unable to use anyone in the U.S. to conduct export business on his behalf while the denial order is in place. The denial order will also cover any U.S.-origin item shipped to him in Canada after his release from prison.

“He will not be able to receive any products or technology from the U.S., including toilet paper, during the denial order period,” said Paul DiVecchio, a 40-year export compliance consultant who operates DiVecchio & Associates in Boston.

Vlachos, now 41, apparently thought he had a foolproof plan when he concocted a scheme in early 2011 to smuggle U.S. handguns into Canada.

The Montreal resident worked with co-conspirators Annette Wexler and Jaime Ruiz in the U.S. to legally purchase handguns from various Florida gun dealers. The meeting place to turn over the handguns to Vlachos was inside a restroom at the Haskell Free Library in Derby Line, Vermont, which is steps away from the Canadian border.

On two occasions, in March and April 2011, the trio hid at least 104 handguns inside backpacks that Wexler and Ruiz dropped off in the library’s restroom and Vlachos retrieved.

However, the scheme was detected by a librarian, who told CBC News in June 2017 at the time of Vlachos’ trial that “these people from the outside stood out and were noticed, and attention was paid to their activities.”

Vlachos was charged by the U.S. government for the crime in January 2015, but it took more than two years to complete his extradition to the U.S. to stand trial. He was sentenced to 51 months in jail by the U.S. District Court of Vermont on Sept. 4, 2018. Vlachos had faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The Justice Department said Wexler pleaded guilty to conspiring to make false statements to licensed gun dealers and exporting without a federal government license. Firearms exports to Canada are regulated under the State Department’s U.S. Munitions List. She was sentenced to time served and two years of supervised release on July 25, 2017.

Ruiz also pleaded guilty to two offenses related to his involvement in the conspiracy, but the charges against him were dismissed after his death due to illness, the Justice Department said.

Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.