A Lamborghini-owning, tank-driving gun dealer accused of having multiple bombs at his palatial Arkansas home allegedly lied about being a Pentagon official, boasted about doing business with Pakistan’s intelligence services, and was mysteriously barred from entering Turkey last year.
Numerous new details about the investigation into Neil Ravi Mehta, whose license plate reads “WARLORD,” are revealed in a 75-page search warrant affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast, offering an exclusive behind-the-scenes glimpse of the ongoing probe.
The affidavit, in which a former employee of Mehta’s says the high-living 31-year-old took in some $1.5 million dollars a month from online weapons sales alone, also shows the mysterious Fort Smith man is under investigation for another, significantly more prosaic, reason: lying to investigators about employees’ paid breaks.
Mehta’s 6,000 square-foot house—which may or may not feature an El Chapo-style underground tunnel—was raided on Jan. 31 by federal agents. However, Mehta fled, sparking an international manhunt before he was captured a week later at an Austin, Texas hotel. When confronted by law enforcement, Mehta reportedly claimed to be his brother before his real identity emerged. He stands charged with one count of unlawful possession of an unregistered destructive device.
Mehta is the CFO of Federal Armament, known as FedArm, which sells and exports pistols, shotguns, rifles, body armor, and ammunition, according to the search warrant affidavit. It says the company was established in 2014, and is owned by an investment firm called XN Capital, which is, in turn, wholly owned by Mehta. In June 2021, Mehta established Fort Smith Arms & Ammunition Plant LLC (FSAAP), which FedArm describes as its “military-grade division.”
The affidavit, dated April 25, contains a laundry list of alleged violations by Mehta, such as unlawful importation of firearms, submitting false or misleading export information, tax evasion, obstruction of justice, and conspiring to defraud the United States. (He has not been charged on these counts.)
In February 2022, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) began a compliance inspection of FedArm, which turned up more than 3,000 contraband Turkish shotguns, the affidavit states.
Investigators combed through export records and official Department of State and Department of Commerce license applications for additional evidence. The paperwork listed a contact person named Mark Bailey, FedArm’s purported operations director.
Months went by, and Mehta continued doing business as usual. On Sept. 10, 2022, Mehta was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for an outbound inspection, the affidavit states. Mehta told the officers that he worked as a Department of Defense (DoD) attaché to Turkey and Pakistan, and that he was traveling to both countries for two weeks for business meetings.
“Mehta was permitted to board the outbound flight,” the affidavit states, noting that federal investigators “could not locate any records of Mehta ever having been employed by the DoD.”
Twelve days later, Mehta returned to Dallas/Fort Worth on Turkish Airlines flight 191 from Istanbul, which had originated in Lahore. He was again searched and found to be in possession of three business cards that indicated he worked for the companies XNFS Funds, XN Capital and Federal Armament,” the affidavit goes on.
Mehta claimed he had been refused entry into Turkey, and detained and interrogated for four hours by Turkish officials who wanted to know more about the purpose of his trip.
He claimed the officials barred him “because of information provided by the United States Government,” the affidavit says.
Mehta then conceded he had gone to Turkey and Pakistan to negotiate weapons deals, and had been given the five-star treatment in Pakistan, including staying at a government-owned palace, having an armed government escort, and “meeting with four-star generals and members of the Pakistani Government and Military.”
The deals with Pakistan’s government could be worth millions, Mehta said, according to the affidavit. But Mehta was unable to provide any documentation to back up his story, it says.
That’s when his tales began to unravel further. In October, FedArm applied for an unspecified export license with the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC). However, when an agent with DOC’s Office of Export Enforcement emailed Mark Bailey, FedArm’s listed contact person, he got an auto reply reading, “This email email@example.com has gotten too much spam and has been stopped use. Please go to FSAAP contact us page and contact us through the form if you are not a spam robot.”
A DOC licensing officer was also unable to reach Bailey, and called FedArm sales manager and FSAAP co-owner Jaden Smith. Yet, Smith “was unable to provide Bailey’s phone number and suggested the [licensing officer]… contact the corporate office,” the affidavit states. So the licensing officer provided Smith with instructions on how to complete the licensing forms, and set up a Nov. 16 briefing at FedArm to educate employees on export regulations. But again, Bailey wasn’t available to attend.
When the meeting was over, Smith spilled the beans, according to the affidavit. He told DOC officials that Bailey “is a fictitious identity used by Mehta,” and that after the feds began sniffing around, Mehta told Smith to delete any emails, documents, and files containing his, or Bailey’s, names. A month later, ATF agents searched Mehta’s warehouse, seizing, among other things, a Bulgarian-made 60mm mortar tube and a Soviet sniper rifle.
As the investigation continued, Smith divulged more and more about Mehta and his shadowy doings. He said the two met in 2011, when both were working at a shooting range in Van Buren, northeast of Fort Smith. Smith said he quit his job at the range in 2018 to work for Mehta, who gave him $500,000 worth of firearms to sell. The proceeds would all go to Mehta, in exchange for a 50 percent stake in FedArm and FSAAP. But once Smith gave Mehta the money, he was locked out of the company’s bank accounts, according to the affidavit.
“Smith stated Mehta is depleting inventory, selling items at cost, and terminating employees to reduce overhead with the possibility of moving production to Pakistan,” it says. “Smith stated that Mehta receives $1.5 million dollars a month from GunBroker.com. Smith has been to Mehta’s residence on numerous occasions ranging from office meetings, bachelor parties, political events, and entertaining models. Smith stated Mehta only uses the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom, and the remainder of the home is spotless.”
Mehta and a model named Jessica would be traveling to a firearms expo in Las Vegas in January, Smith told the feds, noting that Mehta employed contract workers in Pakistan who had “the capabilities to delete and wipe computers and electronic devices remotely.”
The multi-agency investigation was simultaneously examining other areas of Mehta’s operations—and allegedly found a trove of evidence showing he altered documents in an attempt to obstruct a civil probe into shorting employees’ pay.
At issue are the two paid, federally mandated 15-minute breaks workers are entitled to, the affidavit states. Mehta instead deducted 30 minutes a day from his employees’ timecards, it continues, and failed to properly pay overtime wages.
Mehta illegally altered employee handbooks turned over to U.S. Department of Labor investigators, changing crucial sections about break times to match his testimony during previous litigation, according to the affidavit. He is additionally suspected of cheating on his personal income tax returns, it says.
For their part, Mehta’s supporters say he is the victim of a coverup. In an email an associate of Mehta’s sent to the Arkansas Times while the arms merchant was on the run, the friend said Mehta was an innocent man, with proper firearms and explosives licenses. His downfall was in fact refusing to “spy, cheat, and steal for the U.S. government,” they claimed.
“You will see how they refuse to answer questions to prove his innocence until they have him in chains and have no ability to fund his legal defense or pay us to fight for him,” the email said, calling the case against Mehta an “unjust persecution.” (In response, an FBI spokesman told the outlet that the bureau’s investigations “are known for being meticulous, lawful and thorough.)
Mehta, whose lawyers did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Wednesday, has pleaded not guilty to the explosives charge and remains detained. His trial is scheduled to begin on July 17.