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Canadian man gets 51 months in border gun smuggling case

September 4, 2018

FILE - In this July 11, 2018 file photo, a library patron freely crosses the United States border from Quebec into Vermont as she walks down the sidewalk during a visit to the Haskell Library, rear, in Derby Line, Vt. A Montreal man is due in a Burlington court for sentencing after he pleaded guilty to charges he helped smuggle more than 100 handguns from the United States to Canada, some through the Haskell Library. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A Montreal man who admitted smuggling about 100 handguns into Canada from Vermont and upstate New York, including some that were left in the bathroom of a library built on the border between the two countries, was sentenced Tuesday to more than 4 years in prison.

Since Vlachos has served about 3 ½ years in prison since his February 2015 arrest in Canada and he is expected to receive some time off his sentence for good behavior. It’s unclear how much additional time he will spend in prison.

“I view this as a very serious offense,” said U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions during the sentencing hearing in federal court in Burlington.

Most of the guns that were smuggled into Canada via Vermont and upstate New York have not been recovered, said Kraig LaPorte, spokesman for the Vermont office of the United States Attorney, which prosecuted Vlachos. He did not know if any had been used in crimes in Canada.

Vlachos pleaded guilty in January to the smuggling that occurred in 2010 and 2011.

Prosecutors had asked U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions to sentence Vlachos to nearly 9 months in prison. Vlachos’ attorney had asked for a sentence of time served.

In court Tuesday, Vlachos apologized for his actions and said his criminal past is behind him. He said he voluntarily waived an extradition fight to face the charges in Vermont. And while he acknowledged a criminal past, he said he was eager to return to Montreal so he can take over the family business from his aging parents.

“I am not the same person,” he said.

Prosecutors say that between July 2010 and April 2011, Vlachos worked with others to move the handguns that were purchased from licensed dealers in Florida into Canada via Vermont and a lesser number through upstate New York. Some were walked across remote locations between Vermont and Quebec. Others were hidden in the bathroom of the Haskell Free Library and Opera House that straddles the border between Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec.

People from both countries are allowed to use the library without passing through border controls. Prosecutors say one of Vlachos’ co-conspirators brought the guns into the bathroom where Vlachos retrieved them and took them back to Canada.

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