by Mike Donoghue
BURLINGTON — A 3-time convicted felon from Rutland County, who officials say attempted to purchase and smuggle parts for silencers from China, has been charged in connection with his girlfriend buying him 17 firearms, according to federal court records unsealed Wednesday.
Homeland Security Investigations raided the home of John J. Grandizio, 39, in Wallingford on Tuesday night in connection with efforts to arrest him on a federal criminal complaint for attempting to receive firearms from another person.
HSI special agents arrested Grandizio, who was with his girlfriend, as they left a Rutland gun store with a .45-caliber handgun that was purchased 3 days earlier, court papers reflect. The prosecution maintains HSI agents reviewed store security video that shows Grandizio handling the gun in the store on July 29 before passing it to his girlfriend for her to buy it.
HSI added a second criminal complaint against Grandizio by early Wednesday afternoon for a felony charge of unlawful possession of a loaded brown Glock 19 semiautomatic within a holster near his right hip when arrested as he left the Rutland gun store, records show. The gun had been bought earlier, officials said.
Grandizio was lodged overnight at the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland pending a hearing in U.S. District Court planned for late Wednesday afternoon.
The arrest and raid were first reported by the Rutland Herald online.
Grandizio’s criminal record includes 3 felony convictions: for unlawful possession of a firearm in 2008 and forgery in both 2015 and 2017, all in New Jersey, HSI said in court papers. Records from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show Grandizio also attempted to purchase a firearm at a pawn shop in South Carolina in 2016, but was denied due to his criminal history.
An internet search shows he is featured on a website page entitled “John Grandizio, Green Beret …Not!!” that is hosted by a group of military veterans that says Grandizio has inflated his military record with pictures and more than two dozen false claims. The site, named “Guardians of the Green Beret,” says it uses both the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and military records from Fort Bragg to expose people making false claims about their service to the county.
Court records show Grandizio lives at 189 Highland Road in Wallingford with his girlfriend, whose name was not disclosed, and her son, and Grandizio’s parents.
As the investigation unfolded, HSI special agents talked to a federally licensed firearms dealer in Rutland, who reported he sold about 17 firearms to Grandizio’s girlfriend between Oct. 28, 2022 and June 6, 2023, when a .556 caliber AR-style rifle was bought, HSI said.
Grandizio also was present for the sale of a Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun in December 2022 and that it was consistent with a firearm the defendant displayed during a confrontation near his home less than two months later, records show. The description also matches the gun taken off him during the arrest. The gun dealer reported Grandizio also makes ammunition purchases at the store, HSI said. Felons are prohibited are also banned from buying ammo.
Grandizio reportedly pulled a gun on a person that was looking to buy a nearby house for sale on Feb. 1, Homeland Security said in court papers. The potential homebuyer had pulled up with family members and parked on the side of the road, but was confronted by a man in a Nissan Pickup, HSI said.
The pickup driver claimed he could not pass and threatened to fight with the family, HSI said. The potential home buyer said there was no need to fight, and the driver responded by getting out of his truck displaying a brown semi-automatic in his right hand, the victim reported. The gunman was told there was no need for a weapon, and he got back into the truck and drove off, but not before a member of the potential homebuyer’s family snapped a photograph of the gunman and truck, HSI said. The pictures were later shared with investigators.
Witnesses said a young boy was in the truck and a check by investigators showed the license plate on the vehicle came back to Grandizio’s girlfriend with the same mailing address, records show.
HSI, which has a veteran special agent embedded at the Rutland City Police Department, began its investigation in April after developing information that a questionable package was headed from China to Wallingford, records show. It was part of an international investigation known as Operation “Triggerfish” that was looking into the illegal importation of Glock selector switches, but uncovered multiple shipments of firearm suppressors being manifested as “solvent traps” or “auto filters,” HSI said in court papers.
A second federal operation known as “Silent Night” was created to interdict those types of shipments, HSI said.
An HSI court affidavit outlined the rest of the Vermont portion of the international investigation:
One package destined from China to Grandizio’s home claimed it was “Household Tools” and valued at $8. Customs and Border Protection checked the package on April 19 as part of Operation “Silent Night” and determined the devices were or could be easily converted into a firearms silencer.
Four days later a second suspicious package headed from China to Grandizio’s home was intercepted by Customs and Border Protection as part of Operation “Silent Night.” The bill of lading claimed it contained “Accessories” and was worth $8.
Pictures were provided to HSI in Vermont and ATF Special Agent Eric Brimo, based in Burlington, determined the items could be built into a firearm silencer or muffler with some additional mill work.
Homeland Security Investigations visited Grandizio’s home for a “Knock and Talk” on May 3 and spoke with a woman who said she was his girlfriend. She reported she and Grandizio own firearms, including handguns and rifles. At the request of federal agents, she called Grandizio, who was picking up her son.
Grandizio admitted he had purchased some “oil filters” for his Kubota side-by-side from a website. Investigation revealed it was an e-commerce website that is China’s biggest online commerce company.
HSI agents visited a Kubota sales and service business in Washington County and showed the sales manager the pictures of the items that were destined for Grandizio. The sales manager said there was no way the seized items could be used as an oil filter on a Kubota vehicle or as a replacement part, the court affidavit reports
Grandizio is not facing any known charges for his military claims that were exposed on the website, which monitors possible misrepresentations about military service.
The website notes it is operated by former and current Green Berets, “who find and investigate those who falsely claim to be a Green Beret. We will never out someone unless we are 100 percent certain via FOIA and Bragg.”
They posted 33 claims by Grandizio and their investigation showed 28 were classified as untrue. Listed next to most of those claims were “false, records do not support this claim.”
One claim was he earned three Purple Hearts. The website said it found Grandizio had earned one.
Investigation shows five claims by Grandizio are listed as true, the website said.
This news article was first published in the Rutland Herald.