Sigal Chattah Accepts $10,000 in Campaign Donations From Accused Gun Smuggler

Campaign photo of Sigal Chattah

By Keya Vakil

September 29, 2022

In the 1990s, Curtis Debord allegedly smuggled $5 million worth of guns and weapon parts into the US, according to the federal government. Investigators in California also suspected Debord may have been involved in a murder-for-hire in the 1980s, though he wasn’t charged. Debord is now one of Republican attorney general candidate Sigal Chattah’s biggest donors.

Republican Sigal Chattah, who claims she’ll “make crime illegal again,” has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from an accused weapons smuggler.

Chattah, who’s running to be Nevada’s next attorney general, accepted $10,000 in campaign contributions from Curtis Lynn Debord, who was indicted for allegedly smuggling millions of dollars of illegal weapons into the United States in the 1990s.

Debord donated $10,000—the maximum allowable amount—to Chattah’s campaign on April 27. Debord’s contributions, which were first reported by the American Independent, make the alleged gun smuggler one of Chattah’s top donors, even as the Republican has centered her campaign around the issue of crime in Nevada.

Over the span of four years beginning in 1997, Debord was indicted three separate times and charged with numerous crimes, including conspiracy to smuggle firearms and firearm parts into the US, conspiracy to deal in firearms without a license, and witness tampering. 

Debord was indicted following a sting investigation carried out by the US Bureau of Customs (now known as the US Customs and Border Protection). According to the federal government, Debord allegedly smuggled $5 million worth of guns and weapon parts from Vietnam to the US and illegally sold more than 1,000 firearms and other munitions—including parts for machine guns and grenade launchers—to private citizens. 

Debord was also accused of attempting to bribe a witness to give false testimony before a federal grand jury. As SFGate reported in 1998, at one point, Debord allegedly warned one of the government’s undercover agents: “If there’s a rat (informant), we kill them, the family, the kids.”

The charges were ultimately dismissed in 2005, on the grounds that Debord and his co-defendant’s right to due process and a speedy trial had been violated. 

In a statement, Chattah defended accepting the donations from Debord and refused to return them, pointing out that he wasn’t ever convicted.

“The unfounded and frivolous allegations against Mr. Debord resulted with the refusal to prosecute Mr. Debord,” Chattah said. “When you provide me with a conviction of ‘alleged smuggling,’ I will revisit the matter.”

Those charges weren’t Debord’s first run in with the law. In the 1980s, a local sheriff’s department in California investigated Debord and his wife at the time, Joye, for illegal sales of automatic weapons and weapons parts. According to contemporaneous newspaper accounts, Debord ultimately pled guilty to three misdemeanors as part of a plea bargain that included dropping all charges against his wife.

Shortly thereafter, the main witness against Debord—a confidential informant named Roy Foreman—was murdered at his home. The ensuing investigation implicated a man named Peter Silverbrand, an acquaintance of Debord’s, as Foreman’s killer

According to newspaper accounts at the time, investigators suspected Debord hired Silverbrand to commit the murder, and during Silverbrand’s trial, prosecutors argued that he shot Foreman because of Foreman’s testimony against Debord. Debord insisted he had nothing to do with the crime and was never charged, while Silverbrand was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Chattah did not comment on questions regarding the investigation into Debord in the 1980s, or the Silverbrand case. She did, however, call Debord an “asset” to the state of Nevada, owing to his work with U.S. Ordnance, a firearms manufacturer that has received federal contracts. 

“Mr. Debord is an asset to the State of Nevada as a pillar of a homegrown Nevada company that continues to maintain contracts with the United States Department of Defense,” Chattah said. “Perhaps you should explain to me, if the US Government continues to work with Mr. Debord, why it is of your opinion that I should refuse campaign contributions from him.”


CATEGORIES: Law and Policy


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