In 2005, Albert Kwan was living the American dream. Then the US government stepped in and turned his world upside down for no valid reason. They incarcerated him, ruined his reputation, destroyed his businesses, and almost cost him his US Army pension, then they prosecuted him on bogus charges that took Kwan over a decade, and almost a half-million dollars to overcome.
Today, Albert Kwan lives primarily on his small military pension, which he was supplementing with Christian mission work and recruiting of students for a US foreign exchange program, but a recent stroke and subsequent eye surgeries now limit his ability to travel or do that work.
I first wrote about Albert’s abuse at the hands of federal agents, back in 2009. Since then, he’s been exonerated in the gun cases, but the feds are still refusing to issue him an FFL, and now, with his health taking a turn for the worse, a group of us are raising money to help him with his current living expenses, and hopefully to build some savings with which to hire an attorney to sue the US government for the unjustifiable abuse they have put him through.
Caught-Up In an Unrelated Murder Investigation
In 2005, Albert Kwan was approached by federal agents investigating the 2001 murder of a US Attorney in Seattle. Authorities were able to determine that the gun used was a Makarov. They also determined that the gun had been updated with a popular aftermarket barrel. Kwan happened to be among the thousands of people who had purchased one of the 3,500 barrels known to have been sold. As a gun collector and former licensed firearms dealer, it is not unusual at all that Albert had purchased one of the barrels for one of the several Makarovs in his extensive collection, and Albert had no objection to the investigators inspecting his Makarovs or the aftermarket barrel.
Problems arose though, when Albert, in accordance with the advice he had received from his attorney, refused to allow FBI and BATFE agents unfettered access to his home and gun collection.
Instead, he gave the requested guns and parts to his attorney who passed them on to the federal agents. There was also an issue regarding how many barrels Kwan had purchased. Federal agents insisted, based on incomplete and chaotic sales and shipping records, that some 10 years prior, Kwan had purchased two of the suspect barrels, but Kwan insisted that he recalled purchasing only one barrel of the type the FBI was seeking. He turned over all of his Makarovs and barrels, along with similar Walther pistols and barrels, but the federal agents weren’t satisfied.
They felt that Kwan’s refusal to allow them to search his home was suspicious. They also had a suspect in the murder who happened to have lived near Kwan for a time, though there was no indication that they ever met.
With those two issues nagging at them, the agents discovered that Kwan had made arrangements to travel to China. Even though the trip had been planned months before Kwan had any contact with federal agents, and he routinely traveled back and forth to China, often several times a year, they characterized the trip as an attempt to flee.
Agents stopped Kwan at the airport, put him in handcuffs, and drug him to the Federal Court House in Seattle where they informed him that he was under arrest as a “material witness” in the investigation into the murder of US Attorney Thomas Wales.
Albert was held in solitary confinement in a Federal Detention Facility for over 20 days. He was handcuffed and shackled repeatedly and questioned over and over again about the supposed second Makarov barrel. Throughout his incarceration and afterward, federal agents issued press releases naming Kwan, or describing him, and implying that he was somehow connected to the murder of Thomas Wales. This exposure did serious damage to Albert Kwan’s reputation, destroying his commercial real estate business, costing him his Top Secret security clearance, and causing him to be suspended from his position in the US Army Reserves.
ATF Creates Evidence for False Gun Charges
After arresting Kwan, FBI agents obtained a warrant, and with a BATFE “firearms expert” in tow, they searched Albert’s house and gun collection, finding nothing of the “missing” Makarov barrel or anything else related to the Wales murder case. But the BATFE agent used the opportunity to identify certain guns in Kwan’s collection, which he thought might be “questionable,” so the very next day, a new warrant was issued to the BATFE, authorizing them to search Kwan’s home for illegal weapons.
The BATFE search yielded two guns that they claimed were illegal, and Kwan was threatened with prosecution for those two guns if he continued to refuse to tell the murder investigators what they wanted to know. Kwan insisted that he had told them everything he knew and that he was unable to change his story.
Federal prosecutors followed through on their threats, charging Kwan first with illegal possession of an unregistered machine gun, and later with illegal possession of an unregistered Short-Barreled Rifle.
The first “illegal” gun was an M14 rifle that had been legally built by a government contractor as a semi-auto-only, target rifle, and legally sold by a government agency to the civilian market back in the 1960s.
After modifying the gun with numerous parts from another full-auto M14 that Kwan legally owned, and spending some time modifying the receiver with a grinding tools, the BATFE “experts” were eventually able to make the gun fire full-auto.
After hearing the evidence and looking at the amount of work done by the BATFE “experts” to turn the gun into a full-auto, the jury concluded that the gun was a legal semi-automatic target rifle, just as Kwan had maintained. He was acquitted on that charge, but BATFE said they couldn’t return the rifle since it was now a machine gun and couldn’t be legally converted back. They destroyed both that gun and the full-auto M14 used as a parts donor. The original rifle, as a very unique sample, would be valued at several thousand dollars, and the legal, full-auto rifle would sell today for around $20,000.00 or more.
Kwan received no compensation for either.
Kwan was also charged with having an unregistered, Short-Barreled Rifle because they found a HK VP70Z pistol and a combination holster/stock for a VP70M. The BATFE claimed that, since the pistol was capable of accepting the stock, this constituted “constructive possession” of a Short-Barreled Rifle. They made this claim, even though Kwan also owned a legally registered, full-auto VP70M that was registered as a Short-Barreled Rifle. The BATFE insisted that the critical distinction was that the semi-auto version of the pistol was capable of accepting the shoulder stock. They convinced the jury and Kwan was found guilty, but the judge learned that the BATFE had misrepresented several pertinent facts, and he reversed the jury verdict, declaring a mistrial.
It took Kwan almost a decade to finally be declared Not Guilty and exonerated on all charges. It also cost him his life’s savings and then some.
In the end, Albert Kwan, who had served honorably in the US Army and Reserves for 29 years, first in the Infantry and later in Intelligence, where he was granted a Top Secret/SCI security clearance, worked for the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, and had started and run several successful businesses, including a commercial real estate business, interpreter services, recruiting for student exchange programs, and running a federally licensed firearms business, as well as assisting with Christian mission work overseas, was kidnapped by federal agents, held against his will, and prosecuted for non-crimes, all because he followed his lawyer’s advice and said No when federal agents asked to search his home without a warrant.
Now, at the age of 60, Albert suffers from premature health issues, including suffering a mild stroke and needing surgeries on both of his eyes. His reputation in the business community is still tainted. He was able to recover his Army pension but missed the opportunity to serve with his unit in a second deployment to Afghanistan. He was forced to send most of his firearm collection into storage out of state, where it was pillaged by thieves, and he was recently denied his final appeal in trying to force the BATFE to issue him a new Federal Firearms License, which means that he cannot resume his firearm business.
The whole ordeal has cost Albert close to a half-a-million dollars.
The federal government has never apologized for what they did to Albert, and they’ve never paid anything in the way of restitution or compensation for what they took from him. While he’s not destitute, he is struggling to make ends meet, and has been forced to sell some of his most prized possessions, just to cover taxes on his long-time home.
I, and others, believe the US government owes Albert Kwan something, and we’re hoping that a GoFundMe campaign will not only help Albert meet his current financial needs but that it will enable him to fund a retainer fee for a civil rights attorney to file suit for wrongful prosecution and abuse of power against the federal government [read: BATF].
You can contribute to Albert’s GoFundMe campaign by clicking here. Any help you choose to give is greatly appreciated.
About Jeff Knox:
Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.