A former staff sergeant in a U.S. Special Forces National Guard unit is facing up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to supplying semi-automatic weapons for export to China in violation of the Arms Export Control Act.

Joseph Debose, a 30-year-old North Carolina resident, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in New York on Sept. 6 to charges that he provided multiple shipments of semi-automatic weapons to accomplices who hid them in packages and sent them to a shipping company who exported them to China.

According to the Bureau of Industry and Security, the smuggling scheme was uncovered after police in China seized a package containing weapons with damaged serial numbers shipped from Queens, New York. The type of weapons seized were on the United States Munitions List, meaning that it is illegal to export them without a license from the U.S. State Department.

Authorities were able to trace some of the weapons back to Debose and arranged a sting operation, catching him as he arrived at a meeting point with a truckload of guns for his next shipment. In all, four people were charged with weapons trafficking and export offenses in connection with the alleged scheme.

“The defendant traded the honor of his position in the National Guard for the money he received for smuggling arms to China. In blatant disregard for everything he was sworn to uphold, the defendant placed numerous firearms into a black market pipeline from the United States to China,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch. “We utilize all available resources to stop the flow of illegal weapons through New York and overseas. This case demonstrates the effectiveness of total collaboration among multiple federal law enforcement agencies and our foreign partners to address a global challenge.”