Adair Police Chief Convicted for Fraud, False Statements, and Firearms Charges

DES MOINES, Iowa — On February 14, 2024, a federal jury in Des Moines convicted Bradley Eugene Wendt, 47, of conspiring to make false statements to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF), making false statements to the ATF, and illegal possession of a machine gun.

Since July 2018, Wendt has been the Chief of Police for Adair, Iowa.  He is also the owner of BW Outfitters, a federal firearms licensee in Denison, Iowa. Evidence at trial showed that, between July 2018 and August 2022, Wendt used his position as Chief of Police to obtain machine guns for his own personal use and profit, including to buy machine guns for his own store. 

Generally, machine guns made after May 1986 are illegal to transfer and possess. But law enforcement agencies can buy machine guns for their official use and authorized dealer can get machine guns to demonstrate to a police department for the department’s future possible purchase. If a police department wants to purchase or receive a demonstration of a machine gun, it can submit a letter to ATF, referred to as a “law letter,” expressing its need for and interest in the machine gun.

Between July 2018 and August 2022, Wendt wrote nearly 40 law letters, requesting the purchase or demonstration of 90 machine guns for the Adair Police Department. In the law letters to purchase machine guns for his two-man department, Wendt said he was buying the machine guns for the official use of his department and was not getting the machine guns for resale. In the law letters requesting demonstrations of machine guns, Wendt said the Adair Police Department wanted a demonstration for the department’s future possible purchase of the requested machine guns.

A jury found that Wendt made false statements in several of these letters, convicting him of conspiracy to make false statements to the ATF and eight counts of making a false statement to the ATF. Evidence at trial showed that Wendt purchased machine guns for the Adair Police Department, but later resold those machine guns at a personal profit of nearly $80,000. The evidence also showed Wendt used demonstration law letters to purchase machine guns for his own gun store, BW Outfitters, including a .50 caliber machine gun called a “Ma Deuce,” which he immediately mounted to his personally owned armored Humvee.

Wendt was also convicted of illegal possession of a machine gun, based on his personal possession of a belt-fed, M60 machine gun registered to the Adair Police Department. Wendt, along with his gun store BW Outfitters, hosted a machine gun shoot in April 2022, where he charged the public to shoot machine guns, including several registered to the Adair Police Department. The jury found Wendt was not acting within the scope of his official duties when he possessed the M60 machine gun.

Wendt faces up to five years’ prison on the conspiracy count, five years’ prison for each false statement charge, and up to ten years’ prison for illegal possession of a machine gun. Sentencing is scheduled for June 14, 2024, at the United States Courthouse in Des Moines. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the United States sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Omaha Special Agent in Charge Eugene Kowel 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. 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. The FBI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate and hold accountable those who violate their oath of office to enrich themselves.”

ATF Kansas City Field Division Special Agent in Charge Bernard Hansen stated “Mr. Wendt was in a position of trust and his egregious behavior betrayed his community he was entrusted to protect. Wendt was sworn to uphold the law, but instead he abused his authority as the Chief of Police for his own personal benefit.”  

United States Attorney Richard D. Westphal of the Southern District of Iowa, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation made the announcement. “No one relishes seeking criminal prosecution of a law enforcement officer,” stated U.S. Attorney Richard Westphal, “however, with the oath of public service, comes the accountability of putting the public trust at the forefront of this duty. An oath that most officers zealously pursue every day with honor. If an individual law enforcement officer is the exception to this rule, then we should not shirk from holding them accountable. Our thanks to the dedicated work of the investigative ATF and FBI agents, and our hard-working trial team.” This case was investigated by ATF and FBI, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mikaela Shotwell, Ryan Leemkuil, and Shai Gonzales.

Contact

Public Information Officer 
515-473-9300
USAIAS.PAO@usdoj.gov

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