Former US Marine from Hemet convicted for smuggling Iraqi chrome-plated machine gun

A chrome-plated AK-47 with pearl hand gr

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Prosecutors say Joel Miller somehow smuggled the weapon into the United States during a 14-month tour of duty in Iraq, then boasted to friends about the weapon’s origins.

A federal jury in Riverside has convicted a former U.S. Marine from Hemet of illegally possessing a chrome-plated machine gun that may have once belonged to a member of Saddam Hussein’s royal guard.

Federal prosecutors say the Marine sergeant boasted to friends that the chrome-plated AK-47 had belonged to a member of Saddam Hussein’s personal security force. Experts confirmed that the weapon came from the region.

They "narrowed it down to either Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Chiu. He's based in Riverside. "They were also able to say that, given its markings, that it was consistent with that type of gun."

There are explicit military rules against seizing weapons on the battlefield — it's illegal to bring back weapons from deployments.

"From the very early stage in the military career they are told this is not something they can do," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Chiu. "Having a weapon like that is not something used for hunting or personal safety. They’re designed for one purpose and that’s military purposes: for war and to kill."

Miller is a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps. The Marines discharged Joel Miller two years ago over a separate incident — he filed about $16,000 in false travel claims.

At his sentencing hearing in September he faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

This story has been updated.

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