‘Alt-Right Armory’ podcaster and his son, a Navy veteran, kept ‘exceedingly dangerous’ gun cache in Pa., feds say
The Express-Times February 10, 2022
A father and son who live in Bethlehem Township were arrested Monday on charges they had 13 “machine guns” and 12 unregistered firearm silencers, court papers say.
The guns, which were unregistered and “exceedingly dangerous,” could kill dozens of people in a manner of seconds, the government alleges.
Joseph Raymond Berger, of the 3400 block of Lehigh Avenue, was released on $25,000 unsecured bail pending further court appearances, while his son, Navy veteran Joseph Paul Berger, was held in Lehigh County Jail, records show.
Court papers say the government wants Joseph Paul Berger to be held pending further court proceedings because he is a danger to the community and his antigovernment rhetoric on his podcast “Alt-Right Armory” indicates he is unlikely to obey the court’s directives and is a flight risk, paperwork said.
Authorities did not list ages for the two adults.
The investigation, which involved Homeland Security Investigations; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Customs and Border Patrol and other federal agencies, was launched after three packages containing silencers imported from China were intercepted by federal agents, court papers say.
Joseph Paul Berger’s cellphone number was on the paperwork for two of the silencers and federal authorities used that information to obtain a search warrant in 2021 for the home where both men live, court papers say.
Thirteen machine guns — weapons that were altered after purchase to fire more than one round automatically — and 12 silencers were recovered and analyzed by the ATF, court papers say. The silencers included one of those intercepted as well as nine converted from automotive oil filters, court papers say. Ten of the guns were bought by Joseph Raymond Berger and three by Joseph Paul Berger since 2015, court papers say.
The guns are “military production, full-auto bolt assemblies,” court papers say.
The altered weapons included eight AK-style rifles, two C308 308 Winchester rifles, two MP5k submachine guns and one RPK-style machine guns, court papers say.
Five other guns that were not altered were also taken by authorities, court papers say.
The men kept the machine guns and silencers in a secured basement room, court papers say.
Both men are charged with one count of possession of a machine gun and two counts of possession of a nonregistered firearm (one charge for the guns and the other for the silencers), court papers say.
Joseph Paul Berger is a certified armorer and machinist and had experience working on firearms in the Navy, court papers say.
The modifications to make the guns fire automatically were done after being bought and evidence was collected indicating purchases were made to facilitate this process, court papers say.
Joseph Paul Berger kept buying firearms after a search warrant was served in January 2021, court papers say.
A 3D printer owned by Joseph Paul Berger was seen in the home and “plastic firearms magazines for handguns and components to manufacture firearms magazines were sitting next to the printer,” court papers say.
A detention hearing was scheduled on Thursday afternoon via Zoom for Joseph Paul Berger, who has no previous criminal record, authorities say.
The government wants him detained because the weapons charges are serious. Court papers quote from the 2012 circuit court case United States v. Henry, which says, “a modern machine gun can fire more than 1,000 rounds per minute, allowing a shooter to kill dozens of people within a manner of seconds. Short of bombs, missiles, and biochemical agents, we can conceive of few weapons that are more dangerous than machine guns.”
If found guilty, each man faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, a $270,000 fine and a $300 special assessment, court papers say.
Attorneys for both men did not immediately respond to lehighvalleylive.com’s request for comment.
The public information officer in charge of the case for Homeland Security Investigations did not respond to an email seeking information.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
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