A 71-year-old Lisbon man appeared remotely Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland on five counts of selling guns without a federal firearms license.
Wendell Millett, who winters in St. Petersburg, Florida, was released on bail.
He has claimed that he buys and sells many items besides guns, including boats and lawnmowers.
Millet was trying to supplement his Social Security income, according to his attorney, Verne Paradie of Lewiston.
“He was not trying to be a black-market dealer or intending for them to get into the wrong hands,” Paradie said. “He enjoys it. It’s a hobby for him.”
Under federal law, it is illegal to sell guns to make a profit without a federal firearms license. Millett had a license from February 1989 to September 1994 but let it lapse, according to court documents.
Millett was not asked Wednesday to enter pleas to the charges because he has not yet been indicted by a federal grand jury. Grand jury sessions have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Millett originally was arrested in late January at his winter home in Florida. He was released there on personal recognizance bail with conditions that he not buy or sell guns while his case is pending and that he not leave the state without the judge’s permission.
He came to the attention of the Tampa division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that determined Millett had purchased 72 guns in 19 separate transactions between Dec. 15, 2010, and March 4, 2019. He allegedly bought 52 firearms from licensed dealers in Maine between May 7 and Nov. 3, 2019.
Last year, undercover ATF agents purchased five firearms from Millett in Maine between August and November in response to ads posted online, according to the complaint. A sixth undercover purchase allegedly was made in December after Millett had been warned that he could be charged if he continued to sell guns for profit without a federal firearms license.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment on it. It is the practice of the office not to comment on ongoing cases.
If convicted, Millett faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.