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Federal prosecutors are considering filing weapons charges against former top officials of the Blackwater Worldwide private security company on allegations that they illegally stockpiled automatic rifles at its headquarters, The Associated Press has learned.

Senior Justice Department officials are reviewing a draft indictment against former president Gary Jackson, former Blackwater lawyer Andrew Howell, and a third man who used to work at the firm’s armory, people close to the case told The AP. A decision is not expected until at least next month.

Any indictment, even of former executives, would be unwelcome news at a company beleaguered since a 2007 shooting involving Blackwater guards in Baghdad left 17 people dead. Under a new name, Xe, the firm is trying to win Defense Department approval to train police in Afghanistan. The contract could be worth up to $1 billion but has drawn the ire of some U.S. lawmakers.

The potential charges stem from a raid conducted by federal agents in 2008 that seized 22 weapons, among them 17 AK-47s.

Multiple law enforcement officials familiar with the case said investigators are trying to determine whether Blackwater obtained the official letterhead of a local sheriff to create a false justification for buying the guns. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.

Federal law prohibits private parties from buying fully automatic weapons registered after 1986, but does allow law enforcement agencies to have them.

Xe spokesman Mark Corallo said the company has “fully cooperated with this investigation, and we will have no further comment.”

Jackson said during a brief phone conversation Monday that he would not be able to talk about federal charges and did not know anything about any that might be looming.

“I haven’t heard a single, solitary word,” Jackson said before abruptly ending the phone call. Attempts to reach Howell for comment Monday were not successful.

In a 2008 interview with The Associated Press, Jackson and other Blackwater executives said the company provided the local Camden County Sheriff’s Office a place to store weapons, calling the gesture a “professional courtesy.”

“We gave them a big safe so that they can store their own guns,” Jackson said at the time.

Company officials, including both Jackson and Howell, played down the importance of the raid during the interview. Jackson said some of the 16 uniformed officers who came to serve the warrant were embarrassed by the event, and agents had to stop at Blackwater’s front gate to get passes to come onto the company’s sprawling campus in northeastern North Carolina.

“As a hypothetical, one would think that, if you were going on a raid, you’d take your Kevlar and your weapon,” Howell said to laughter from other executives.

Source: Fox News AP

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Vietnam-era weapons demo at Fort Harrison, Indiana on March 27.

Federal prosecutors are considering filing weapons charges against former top officials of the Blackwater Worldwide…