Courts & Crime

Florida weapons dealer faces federal charges in sting

MANATEE — It has the makings of a spy novel.

A Bradenton weapons dealer thought he was meeting with a minister of defense from Africa at a luxury hotel in Miami and later at a Washington, D.C., restaurant as he negotiated a $15 million deal to outfit the presidential guard, according to a federal indictment released last week from the Department of Justice.

It turns out he wasn't meeting with a defense minister. Instead, an undercover FBI special agent played the role, negotiating weapons deals with 40-year-old Andrew Bigelow and 21 other business executives who are accused of bribing overseas officials to win an overseas weapons contract.

The operation, say federal authorities, is the largest investigation dealing with foreign corporate bribery and the first extensive undercover operation enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Bigelow is listed as a managing partner and director of government programs for a Sarasota company that sells machine guns, grenade launchers and other small arms and accessories, according to a released statement.

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