Pilot accused of importing illegal gun parts loses bid to have case against him thrown out

A helicopter pilot who regularly travelled between South Australia and the United States has lost a bid to get the bulk of his charges, for allegedly importing illegal gun parts in his luggage, thrown out of court.

Ronald Albert Maurer, 55, appeared in the Adelaide Magistrates Court seeking to get seven of nine criminal charges dropped because there was insufficient evidence against him.

Maurer pleaded guilty to illegally importing firearm parts and providing a false statement to the Australian Federal Police after he was caught with 14 items in his luggage at Sydney Airport in July 2021.

The court heard items included a 17-round magazine, pistol slide, second barrel and a device to service firearms.

But he denies seven other charges relating to the attempt to import firearm parts between May 2017 and December 2019.

Casey Isaacs, for Maurer, told the court there was no evidence to prove that his client imported gun parts into Australia on the seven previous occasions.

“There’s no evidence he intended to import these goods,” he said.

Prosecutors allege Maurer would purchase firearm parts online and get them shipped to an address in Florida before importing them into Australia as he travelled back-and-forth to the US for work as a helicopter pilot.

Ronald Maurer walks alongside Casey Isaacs with the court building behind them
Maurer’s lawyer Casey Isaacs (left) told the court there is no evidence to support the case against his client. (ABC News: Meagan Dillon)

Magistrate Justin Wickens questioned prosecutors about the strength of their case and whether it could be inferred that Maurer would use the parts for firearms that were legal in the US while he was in the US.

He said it was possible Maurer “liked guns” and had a “hobby” to use more high-powered firearms while he was in the US.

“He’s not allowed to have a semi-automatic pistol or AK-47 in Australia,” Magistrate Wickens said.

“The purchases of items when he’s going to be there – doesn’t that suggest that there’s an inference that he intends to use these items when he’s over there?”

But the prosecutor replied that Maurer had made admissions during his police interview that he had imported parts into Australia in the past, and it could use “circumstantial” evidence to prove it was not a one-off, but his “Modus Operandi”.

The court heard Maurer had made 39 online purchases of gun parts from a couple of different stores in the US.

But the court heard none of the parts were found at his South Australian home when it was searched by police.

Magistrate Wickens found Maurer did have a case to answer on the seven charges, and committed him to face trial in the District Court.

He will be arraigned in April.