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by The Associated Press
The Associated Press - April 16, 2010
The former president of Blackwater Worldwide and four other former officials at the embattled security firm were indicted Friday on federal weapons charges, partially the result of a raid two years ago by agents that rounded up 22 weapons, including AK-47s.
The indictment issued Friday charges Gary Jackson, who left the company last year in a management shakeup, along with four other former workers. The charges against Jackson include a conspiracy to violate firearms laws, false statements and possession of an unregistered firearm.
Also indicted were former general counsel Andrew Howell, former executive vice president Bill Mathews, Ana Bundy, who at one point had oversight of the firm's armory, and Ronald Slezak, who was hired to oversee documents related to the company's status as a firearms dealer.
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.
Around the time that Jackson left the company, Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services.
The company has been trying to rehabilitate its image since a 2007 shooting in Baghdad left 17 people dead, outraged the Iraqi government and led to a federal charges against several Blackwater guards -- accusations later thrown out of court after a judge found prosecutors mishandled evidence.
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.
One of the 2005 agreements viewed later by the AP says the weapons will be kept under "lock and key" and doesn't describe whether Blackwater would use the guns. Perry said at the time that his department only used the AK-47s in shooting practice at Blackwater and that none of his 19 deputies were qualified to use them.
Blackwater has said federal authorities knew about the weapons for years and that investigators got a complete look at the company's cache in 2005 after two employees were fired.
In a 2008 interview with the AP, Jackson and other Blackwater executives said the company provided the local Camden County sheriff's office a place to store weapons, calling the gesture a "professional courtesy."
"We gave them a big safe so that they can store their own guns," Jackson said at the time. Added then-Executive Vice President Bill Mathews: "We give stuff to police departments all over the country, and we take particularly good care of our home police departments."
Company officials, including both Jackson and Howell, downplayed the raid during the interview. Jackson said some of the 16 uniformed officers who came to serve the warrant were embarrassed by the event and said agents had to stop at Blackwater's front gate to get passes to come onto the company's sprawling campus in northeastern North Carolina.
"As a hypothetical, one would think that, if you were going on a raid, you'd take your Kevlar and your weapon," Howell said to laughter from other executives. Copyright 2010 The Associated Press
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