CAHOKIA HEIGHTS, Ill — Carlos Akins is just 19 years old, and he’s now accused of selling devices that turn handguns into fully automatic machine guns – a crime that could land him in a federal penitentiary for at least 15 years and a $250,000 fine.
The Southern Illinois District U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Akins is facing one count of unlawful possession of a machine gun and one count of transporting prohibited weapons without a license.
According to court documents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Chicago intercepted a package of 10 Glock switches from China on its way to an address in East St. Louis for Akins in December 2022.
The federal agency then notified the Illinois State Police of the package, and troopers partnered with the ATF for an undercover pickup of the devices.
Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Christopher Watson said troopers are seeing an increase in the number of the devices, which can almost look like a large Lego cube to the untrained eye.
“They're 3D printed in often cases and so the other issue with these is, they are plastic parts,” Watson said. “And so the plastic wears out very quickly in some cases because of poor manufacturing quality issues, and so that additional wear and tear for an item that is not designed for the firearm to begin with creates an extremely unsafe firing condition.”
Under federal law, Glock switches are defined as machine guns, because they can turn semi-automatic pistols into automatic weapons.
“Simply possessing the item is considered a machine gun by federal statutes, and it will land you in hot water,” Watson said.
After his arrest, Akins let police search his bedroom, where they found a Glock with a purple switch, an extended magazine and an additional cell phone. He also told police he ordered Glock switches from an app and had sold nine of them to customers for $2,000, according to court documents.
In January 2023, Homeland Security Investigations seized another package of 10 Glock switches addressed to Akins. In all, Akins is accused of ordering 30 Glock switches from China, according to court documents.
Police in St. Louis also are seeing a surge in the devices.
In 2019 and 2020, St. Louis police seized just one of them. In 2021, that number jumped to four and to 27 in 2022.
So far this year, St. Louis police have seized 38 guns with switches attached to them and four switches that were not attached to any guns – yet.
The Eastern District of Missouri U.S. Attorney’s Office is also coming down hard on those caught with them, with a mandatory minimum of not less than 30 years in prison, according to U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming.
The Southern District of Illinois U.S. Attorney’s Office issued the charges against Akins. An office spokeswoman declined an interview request from 5 On Your Side.
This past fall, police also arrested eight people in Southeast Missouri allegedly connected to the distribution of the deadly modifications.
If you have any information about Glock or Lightning switches you are urged to reach out to the ATF (1-888-283-2662) or reach out to local law enforcement.