Airmen at 109th Airlift Wing used army planes to smuggle weapons, elements, U.S. Legal professional says

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Airmen at 109th Airlift Wing used military planes to smuggle weapons, parts, U.S. Attorney says

ALBANY — Air National Guard members with ties to the 109th Airlift Wing in Scotia used military aircraft to illegally smuggle firearms and accessories into the United States, the U.S. Attorney’s office said Wednesday.

The investigation dates back more than a year and came to light with Wednesday’s sentencing of Timothy R. Schmitt, age 28, of Galway. Schmitt, who was a technical sergeant with the air guard when he smuggled a silencer and a threaded blackout barrel in the U.S. on a military flight. He was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, prosecutors said.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said investigators were led to Schmitt while they investigated two other guardsmen suspected of importing firearms or silencers.

Kevin D. Ronca, 41, of Amsterdam, was sentenced on October 31, 2019, to three years of probation, which included three months of home detention, and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

Ronca, a master sergeant assigned to the 109th Airlift Wing’s maintenance squadron who admitted he conspired to import firearms, told authorities that he and another member of the airlift wing’s maintenance crew, Joseph R. Paludi, 34, of Schenectady conspired to smuggle two firearm silencers Ronca purchased abroad into the airbase on a military plane, prosecutors said.

The 109th Airlift Wing is stationed at Stratton Air National Guard base. Among the operation’s prime assignments are flights to bring scientists and supplies to the research center on Antarctica. The planes rely on skis to land in the snow and rescues in the South Pole have brought national attention to the airlift wing.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Office of Homeland Security. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Collyer.