Jury convicts Iowa police chief of lying to feds to acquire machine guns

The police chief of a small Iowa town was convicted by a federal jury Wednesday of lying to federal authorities to acquire machine guns prosecutors say he sold for his own profit.

The jury convicted Adair Police Chief Brad Wendt, 47, of conspiring to make false statements to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, making false statements to the agency, and illegal possession of a machine gun. He was convicted on 11 of 15 charges.

Wendt was indicted in December 2022, accused of lying to the bureau in official letters asking to buy the machine guns or to see them demonstrated.

Authorities say he bought machine guns for the police department, then sold them for an almost $80,000 personal profit. Trial evidence showed he bought machine guns for his gun store, including a .50-caliber machine gun he mounted to his own armored Humvee, using the letters, federal prosecutors said.

“In a stark abuse of the position of trust he held, Brad Wendt exploited his position as chief of police to unlawfully obtain and sell guns for his own personal profit,” FBI Omaha Special Agent in Charge Eugene Kowel said in a statement Thursday. “When so many law enforcement officers in our country are working to protect our communities and uphold the law, Brad Wendt did exactly the opposite.”

Wendt’s attorney, Nick Klinefeldt, called the jury’s decision a “split verdict,” saying jurors found his client acted in good faith and didn’t intend to be dishonest to the ATF.

“Unfortunately, the jury did find that some of Brad’s subsequent statements were technically false and that he broke the law by bringing a machine gun he purchased with his own funds for the Adair Police Department to a machine gun shoot that was available to both the public and law enforcement,” Klinefeldt said.

The jury reached its decision due to erroneous jury instructions, Klinefeldt said, adding that Wendt intends to appeal the verdict.

Wendt’s sentencing is scheduled for June 14. He faces up to 10 years in prison for the machine gun possession charge.

Wendt has been police chief of Adair, which has roughly 800 residents, since July 2018. The city’s website still listed him as police chief Thursday. A phone message left at city hall was not returned.

Another man, Robert Williams, was also indicted, but his charges were dismissed last year.

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