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Customs Agents Arrest Pair in Handgun Sting

November 22, 1986

Undercover customs agents posing as arms dealers arrested a Santa Monica marine engine dealer and a Canadian associate for allegedly attempting to smuggle 56 handguns to Japan, a U.S. Customs Service spokeswoman said Friday.

Zenichi Kato, 29, identified as a Japanese citizen living here, and Jack Sha, 30, of British Columbia, were taken into custody Thursday evening after they reportedly purchased the weapons from the agents and hid them inside four marine engines that were ready for air shipment to Tokyo.

In addition to delivering the handguns ordered by the suspects, said customs service spokeswoman Maryanne Noonan, the agents gave them an M-16 automatic rifle. But the rifle was too big to fit inside the engine and was returned to the supposed arms dealers.

Noonan said the pair had ordered a total of 200 weapons, including the M-16, an M-14 rifle and an Ingram submachine gun.

Seize Engines

The agents not only took back the handguns and arrested the suspects, Noonan said, they also seized the four engines.

Noonan said it is not yet known whether the weapons were destined for Japanese criminal elements or were headed eventually for the Philippines, where there is a lively black market in illegal guns.

She said the arrests were the result of a monthlong investigation that began when Kato and Sha approached the agents who were posing as arms dealers. She added that the investigation was continuing in coordination with Japanese customs officials in Tokyo, and other arrests are possible.

In a separate case, a Philippines Airlines official disclosed that a man identified only as L. Angeles had been taken into custody upon arrival in Manila on Wednesday when seven "assorted firearms" were found in his luggage after a flight from Los Angeles.

Rex Aldanese, duty manager for the airline, said he could give no further details.

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