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Saturday, December 23, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bellevue gun collector may face new charge

The Associated Press

Federal prosecutors say they intend to bring another weapons charge against a Bellevue gun collector once arrested as a material witness in the 2001 slaying of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales.

Albert K. Kwan has been a person of interest in the killing because sales records indicate that he purchased two Makarov gun barrels in the mid-1990s that were like the one used to kill Wales. Kwan has turned over one such barrel but says he does not remember buying a second one.

Prosecutors said last month he failed a polygraph test. Kwan is not considered a suspect in the case.

In September, he was charged with an unrelated count of illegal machine-gun possession. The charge stemmed from a search of his home conducted in January 2005, when investigators were looking for the other barrel. The investigators seized several weapons and said one of them — an M-14, an assault weapon capable of being used as a machine gun — was illegal.

In court papers filed Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Redkey said two of the other guns were also illegal for Kwan to possess: a short-barreled Heckler and Koch machine gun, and an M-32, the former of which "forms the basis for an expected superseding indictment in this case."

Kwan's attorney, Joseph Conte, did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday. He has previously said he believes prosecutors brought the initial gun charge to squeeze Kwan and improve his memory about the other barrel. Kwan, who was held as a material witness in the case for three weeks in January 2005, has pleaded not guilty.

Wales, an 18-year veteran of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle, was shot as he worked in the basement of his Queen Anne home on Oct. 11, 2001. According to ballistics tests, the murder weapon was a Makarov pistol outfitted with a replacement barrel.

The only publicly identified suspect in the killing is a commercial airline pilot, formerly of Bellevue and now of Snohomish, whom Wales had prosecuted in a fraud case.

Kwan's lawyers have said they do not believe Kwan and the pilot met; the pilot's lawyer says his client is innocent.

Material from The Seattle Times is included in this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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