FBI helped arrest man from Northamptonshire who imported hand grenades

Paul Christian Stellato
Paul Christian Stellato

A career criminal has been convicted of trying to buy three fragmentation grenades after a National Crime Agency investigation.

Paul Christian Stellato, 46, used the dark web to order the fragmentation grenades from a vendor and import them to the UK.

Stellato – who was jailed for 10 years in 1998 for arson with intent to endanger life – sent an image of an explosive to an associate, asking: “If I add shrapnel will it do a hole in a house?”

On 23 November 2016 Stellato, using the online profile ‘cocaineking247’, contacted the seller on the now closed-down AlphaBay market, asking if the advertised hand grenades could be delivered to the UK.

Two days later Stellato – who has 36 convictions for 171 offences - told the seller to send them to his flat in Manor Road, Brackley, Northants, and addressed them to a fake name.

He tried to cover his tracks and give himself a defence by telling the seller: “I blagged someone to get it delivered as they don't know what it is”.

He also wrote: “No matter what, these are not for terrorism affairs, domestic protection only”.

The total cost of the grenades was $370.48 which Stellato paid in bitcoins.

On 14 December 2016, the delivery was made and Stellato signed for the package which was addressed to “Richard Stewart”.

He was arrested on the same day and told officers: “If you need the parcel it’s left outside of my front door.”

Officers recovered Stellato’s mobile phone which contained search history for the terms: “AlphaBay market forum”, “darknet site police selling info” and evidence he had searched for anonymous browser apps.

Yesterday, at Northampton Crown Court, he was convicted of attempting to possess ammunition with intent to endanger life.

He will be sentenced on February 16.

NCA branch commander David Norris said: “Stellato is a career criminal with a very long record and a history of violence.

“It is a frightening prospect to think what he could have done with three grenades.

“We worked tirelessly with our partners – including the FBI and Northamptonshire Police who helped us arrest Stellato – to keep these weapons away from him.”