Groton Police did not purchase firearms from Tyngsboro cop facing firearms charges

Daniel Whitman's LLC tried selling guns to police department at a high price

Daniel Whitman, 36, of Pelham, N.H., a full-time Tyngsboro Police officer who has been on paid leave for over a year, is seen in a video posted on his gun shops Instagram page several years ago. Whitman and a business partner, Bin Lu, 49, a Chinese national residing in Westford, were charged in U.S. District Court Wednesday with conspiracy to violate the National Firearms Act.

GROTON – After being charged with violating federal firearms laws last week, a Tyngsboro police officer was also accused of price gouging.

Groton Police Chief Michael Luth confirmed Monday that Hitman Firearms LLC, a Tyngsboro gun shop owned by Daniel Whitman, made an offer to sell rifles and sights to the town department in April 2019. Luth said the department did not pursue the sale further due to the offer being too expensive, not knowing the alleged criminal nature tied to the guns.

Last Wednesday, Jan. 6, Whitman was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the National Firearms Act in federal court.

According to the affidavit submitted by the Homeland Security Investigations department, Whitman and Westford resident Bin Lu were converting guns they were legally allowed to repair, buy and sell, into more heavily-regulated short-barrel rifles, which Hitman Firearms LLC does not have the proper licenses for, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The criminal charge also alleges Whitman and Lu made, possessed and failed to register short-barreled rifles, and possessed a suppressor that wasn’t registered to either of them or Hitman Firearms, and which wasn’t properly logged in the store’s books.

The affidavit also notes that Whitman posed as a Federal Firearms Licensee that could sell weapons to the Groton Police Department. He made an offer to sell the department 18 rifles, 18 sights, and nine suppressors in April 2019. Chief Luth did confirm Whitman’s offer included rifles and sights, but he did not recall suppressors being involved in the offer. Luth added that he was not aware of the illegal origins of the guns or that Whitman’s company did not have the proper licenses to sell said guns. What he did know was that a quote was made to then-Deputy Chief James Cullen and that the price tag on the weapons were unreasonably high.

“It just seemed expensive,” Luth said. “I remember the offer being far more than what we were willing to spend. Cullen told me the price and I said that we couldn’t afford it.”

When pressed by the newspaper, Luth, however, could not provide the precise amount of Hitman’s offer.

With that, the department declined the offer shortly after it was made. Luth said Whitman didn’t reach back out to the department to lower the price or make the offer more enticing.

Luth further emphasized that he and the department were not aware of Whitman’s alleged activity, a feeling apparently shared by the Groton Select Board. Member Becky Pine said the board was only made aware of Whitman’s situation the day after the arrest with Whitman’s business and the potential sale was never discussed at prior board meetings.

“I don’t think the guns were known about at the time, but I believe the chief’s decision was the right thing to do,” Pine added.

Town Manager Mark Haddad and Select Board Vice Chair Josh Degen had no comment on the incident, while Select Board Chair Alison Manugian echoed Pine’s comments about the board’s awareness and directed further questions to Luth.

Another Nashoba Valley element in the affidavit notes a video uploaded to Lu’s popular Mandarin Chinese Youtube page showing Lu’s nephew shooting guns at the Shirley Rod & Gun Club.

Shirley Town Administrator Michael McGovern said on Monday that he was not alerted to Whitman and Lu’s arrest or their visit to the club.

Shirley Police Chief Samuel Santiago added that the club is a private facility and he did not know of the club’s mention in the affidavit.

“They usually keep to themselves,” Santiago added. “We don’t usually go up there and I don’t recall ever going up there for any disturbances.”

Whitman has been on paid leave from the Tyngsboro Police Department since August 2019.

If found guilty of the felony charge, he could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He was released on $20,000 unsecured bond, ordered to hand over his passport, and ordered not to have any firearms in his home while the case is pending.

During Whitman’s arraignment last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugenia Carris, of U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s Public Corruption & Special Prosecutions Unit, said: “This investigation is more widespread than what is before the court now with the gun charges. There is a significant piece of this involving both defendants that involves dealings with China.”