A Fort Worth man who allegedly manufactured and sold thousands of machinegun conversion devices – small, 3D-printed gadgets that convert ordinary firearms into fully automatic machineguns – has been federally charged, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham.

Xavier Desean Watson, was charged via criminal complaint with possession and transfer of machine guns. He was arrested without incident in the parking lot of his apartment complex on Thursday night and made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cureton in Fort Worth on Friday. Three additional conversion device sellers, Ayoob Wali, 23, Jose Corral Santillan, 19, and Montavion Jones, 20, were charged earlier this year.

Over the course of the investigation, ATF agents seized more than 650 conversion devices, colloquially known as “switches” (installed in Glock-style pistols) or “sears” (installed in semi-automatic rifles).

“As simple to manufacture as they are quick to install, conversion devices turn regular firearms into machineguns capable of inflicting tremendous harm in a few split seconds,“ said U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham. “Imagine hardened criminals armed not only with pistols, potentially lethal in their own right, but also with automatic firearms rivaling those carried by the U.S. military. These half-inch pieces of plastic are putting our people at risk. We cannot let these devices proliferate on our streets.”

“Machinegun conversion devices pose a serious threat to public safety and have been increasingly used in violent gun crime.  This investigation is a clear example of the relentless pursuit by ATF along with our partners to disrupt not only those possessing and using these weapons but also their suppliers,” said James VanVliet Acting Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Dallas Field Division.

According to court documents, in early 2022, Fort Worth law enforcement noted a surge in shootings involving conversion devices, which allow gunmen to fire multiple rounds of ammunition in quick succession with a single depression of the trigger.

(Conversion devices turn legal firearms into machineguns, which are generally unlawful for non-licensed civilians. A pistol equipped with a conversion device can fire up to 1200 rounds per minute – a faster rate of fire than the standard M-4 machinegun issued to U.S. military servicemembers. A standard 3D printer can produce about 100 plastic switches every 72 hours.)

Multiple criminal defendants identified Mr. Corral, a gang member, as a source of supply. Mr. Corral and his associate, Mr. Jones, led agents to Mr. Wali, who eventually identified Mr. Watson as the printer. 

According to court documents, in March 2022, an undercover agent, accompanied by a confidential informant who connected with Mr. Jones via Instagram, purchased 10 machinegun conversion devices from Mr. Jones. The defendant used a juvenile dubbed “little buddy” to deliver the devices to the agent. The following month, the agent purchased eight switches from Mr. Corral.

The agent asked Mr. Corral if he printed the switches himself; he allegedly replied that he did not, but “I got the guy that got the printer.”  The undercover agent then overheard Mr. Corrall place a call to a man he referred to as “Whale,” later identified as Mr. Wali. The agent later asked if he could meet Mr. Wali, but Mr. Corral said the man was “paranoid.” Shortly thereafter, agents observed Mr. Corral meet up with Mr. Wali inside his car, then emerge with a bulging backpack under his sweatshirt.

Mr. Wali and Mr. Corral were arrested on May 3; Mr. Jones was arrested on June 6.

Mr. Wali initially claimed he found the machine gun devices in a vehicle he purchased, but later admitted his supplier was a man named “Xavier,” later identified as Mr. Watson. 

According to the complaint, an undercover ATF agent went on to purchase a total of 33 conversion devices and a 3D-printed AR-15 style pistol from Mr. Watson, who bragged that he could produce roughly 400 switches a day on two 3D printers set up in his living room. He used a tablet to load conversion device printing directions onto the printer. 

The agent met Mr. Watson at his home on Oct. 18 and Oct. 26. On both occasions, Mr. Watson assembled the conversion devices and showed the agent how to insert a conversion device into an AR-style firearm. On the second occasion, he showed the undercover agent the 3D printers and printed the switches while he waited. Mr. Watson acknowledged that he knew some of his buyers were selling the switches, and said that he had previously mailed devices to recipients by concealing them inside a children’s toy.

A criminal complaint is merely allegation of criminal conduct, not evidence. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

If convicted, Mr. Watson faces up to a decade in federal prison.

Mr. Corral pleaded guilty on June 22 to unlawful possession of machine guns and was sentenced on Oct. 7 to 57 months in federal prison. Mr. Jones pleaded guilty to the same charge on Aug. 24 and is set to be sentenced on Dec. 13. Mr. Wali pleaded guilty on Nov. 16 and is set to be sentenced on Jan. 18, 2023.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives’ Dallas Field Division conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Fort Worth Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Gatto is prosecuting the case

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