Authorities arrested three Philippine nationals on charges of violating arms import laws by selling a grenade launcher, mortar launcher, rocket propelled grenade and other weapons to an undercover officer.
The men were charged in a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday with importing weapons to the U.S. without a license in violation of the Arms Export Control Act.
The case is part of a federal investigation of Asian organized crime groups involved in the illicit trafficking of firearms.
Suspects Sergio Santiago de Leon Syjuco, Cesar Paolo Inciong Ubaldo and Arjyl Revereza appeared Friday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. It could not be immediately determined if they had lawyers or entered pleas.
During a period of eight months beginning in 2010, an undercover agent in the Philippines gained the trust of the men who eventually sold him military-grade firearms, said Dennis Lao, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"The premise for these introductions was that the (undercover agent) was interested in purchasing high-powered weapons and explosive devices to be used by the Mexican drug cartel in the United States and Mexico," an affidavit states.
Beginning in October 2010, the agent was sold 12 fully automatic Bushmaster caliber rifles, Lao said.
Ubaldo later offered to introduce the agent to other suppliers of high-powered firearms and eventually provided the agent with a detailed inventory of weapons for sale, the document states.
He also offered to introduce the agent to Revereza, who was apparently a Philippines customs official who could help ship the weapons from the Philippines to the U.S., the affidavit says.
The three men are accused of meeting with the agent to discuss the sale and later helping pack the various firearms and devices into boxes for shipment.
Authorities said thousands of dollars exchanged hands before the items were loaded onto a ship that arrived at the port of Long Beach in June 2011. Authorities seized the items when they entered the U.S.
The suspects could face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.