The Case of the Disappearing Canadian Weapons Instructor and his Invisible Stash

By: Rachel Marsden

Canadian David Hudak is sitting in jail right now, having been charged with unlawfully possessing more than 2,300 unregistered anti-tank missiles worth about 54 million dollars, and more than 1,800 kilograms of unregistered explosives. Hudak--a Canadian national who was allegedly in the US illegally with an expired visa--was denied bail this week by New Mexico judge, Karen Molzen. The judge claimed Hudak would not only be a flight risk if he were to be released, but he would also represent a threat to the community.

Hudak is a self-made expert in explosives who runs a police and military training company called High Energy Access Tools (HEAT) out in the middle of nowhere near Roswell, New Mexico. All his trouble started when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) raided his compound in mid-August. At the time, Hudak was training several foreign nationals from such countries as Yemen and the United Arab Emirates--supposedly in "anti-terrorism techniques". One would think that these foreign nationals would have had difficulties explaining to American authorities why they were seeking to enter the US to learn how to use shoulder-fired missiles and detonate explosives. Likewise, one would figure that some questions would have been raised about why they wouldn't be undertaking this kind of training in their own countries. However, the twenty students were only briefly detained by authorities for questioning before promptly being released and allowed to go on their merry way--continuing on with their lessons in how to blow up tanks and fortified bunkers.

Hudak's ability to render largely invisible himself, his operation, and his weapons, makes magician David Copperfield look like an amateur. The criminal complaint against Hudak that was filed in the US district court in New Mexico says the explosives were made by Tally Defense of Mesa, Arizona, but apparently were shipped to HEAT via the parent company--International Hydro Cut Technologies in Vancouver, Canada. This begs the question: How did these unregistered weapons manage to get across the US-Canadian border not once, but twice, as though they were nothing more than shipments of underwear from Victoria's Secret? Furthermore, how was Hudak able to set off huge explosions at his 7,500 acre training camp near Roswell, New Mexico--a place even aliens cannot seem to pass undetected--without having the local authorities pounding on his door and demanding to know what he was up to? And why did some of the weapons found inside Hudak's compound bear NATO markings? Are they "hand-me-downs" from Big Brother?

Hudak's wife, Leslie, is manning the phones at HEAT's parent company in Vancouver. Although she initially came out swinging in defense of her husband and their business, she now seems to have clammed up. But she does say that she believes all their troubles started when three disgruntled HEAT employees were fired. She claims that one in particular (Steve Mattoon) was a business partner responsible for making sure all the weapons were licensed. She claims he failed to do so out of some kind of premeditated spite, and that he ultimately was the one who reported Hudak and the company to the authorities.

This would sound like a feasible story, if it wasn't for one tiny detail: Hudak has been down this road before. In 1997, he was charged in Canada with the same kind of offenses related to the unsafe storage of explosives and the possession of prohibited weapons. At the time, he pled guilty to the charges and was conditionally discharged.

So far, Hudak has only been charged with the registration and licensing violations; however, Norm Cairns--the assistant US attorney in Albuquerque--described the criminal complaint as "a temporary thing designed to get the prosecution rolling."

In the meantime, a disturbing question remains: How did Hudak's huge shipments of unregistered weapons ever manage to get the green light at the US-Canadian border? A year after September 11th, it's truly mind-boggling that customs officials on both sides of the 49th parallel would be so out to lunch that they allow for such a stash to freely cross the line. It's no wonder the border is considered a "soft target" for terrorists. It should also come as no surprise that, since his arrest, Hudak has disappeared once again from public view. The whirlwind of media coverage has subsided, and there isn't an investigative report to be found. Out of sight, out of mind. However, there are many unanswered questions that need to be addressed. And authorities walk a fine line between giving the public the answers to their questions, and inadvertently handing Osama and his band of angry men detailed tips on how someone could pull a big one over on US border security.