There’s an international manhunt underway for Cody Wilson, the guy credited with creating the blueprints for what was possibly the first fully 3D-printed gun.
Wilson, 30, of Austin, Texas, made “suspicious” travel plans for Taiwan shortly after a friend of the victim told him that law enforcement was preparing to arrest him, according to Austin police. He’s accused of paying $500 to a 16-year-old girl he met on a site called SugarDaddyMeet to have sex with him.
For now, he’s gone. But his business remains. Wilson may be known for his yearslong battle with the federal government over his plastic gun blueprints, but he’s also had his hands in moneymaking for neo-Nazis, crypto-anarchism (as he puts it) and, allegedly, child sex trafficking.
Here’s everything you need to know about Cody Wilson:
He’s essentially cornered the market on 3D-printed guns.
In 2013, Wilson created what is believed to be the first completely 3D-printed gun, Wired reports. You might think the creator of an entirely new product ― a cheap working gun in America, no less ― would immediately file a patent and try to make some money. But Wilson was a “crypto-anarchist,” in his own words, and he wanted to drop the blueprint for his .380-caliber pistol in the public domain, thumbing his nose at the federal government and Big Gun simultaneously.
He uploaded the plans to his website, Defcad.com, along with an anarchist manifesto video, and put in motion what would become the most hotly debated issue in 3D printing: What happens when those printers get cheaper and the average person has access to untraceable cheap plastic guns?
The government got involved. President Barack Obama’s State Department ordered Wilson to take down the schematics, while they investigated his action as a possible violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which govern access to and release of weaponry.
But where Obama took aim at Wilson and Defcad, President Donald Trump has chosen to look the other way. Vox has a great explainer on the recent legal battle, but it essentially goes like this: Wilson sued, claiming that his gun data are speech protected under the First Amendment. Trump’s Justice Department abruptly agreed to a settlement in July that paid Wilson’s legal fees and allowed him to publish his blueprints.
In August, just before Wilson was set to go live with his and other people’s gun blueprints (a business he described as the “Napster” of firearms), a federal court barred him from doing so on public safety grounds. But the court order merely stopped him from posting the blueprints online for anybody to read; it didn’t bar him from selling the plans online and then digitally transmitting them to the buyer. So Wilson started hawking them for any price anybody wanted to pay.
“I’m happy to become the iTunes of downloadable guns, if I can’t be the Napster,” he told The New York Times in August.
Trump, meanwhile, has gone back and forth on the issue. He tweeted on July 31 that he’s “looking into 3D Plastic Guns being sold to the public” and “Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!” But the battle in court rages on.
Wilson isn’t the only one with blueprints for guns nor could he stop their dissemination at this point, even if he wanted to. There are already sites dedicated to hosting his and others’ blueprints. The deed is effectively done, and officials are now looking at the possibility of regulation that would make it harder for the average citizen to print guns.
He launched a crowdfunding site for neo-Nazis.
Wilson’s other big entrepreneurial effort made thousands of dollars for prominent white supremacists, neo-Nazis and trolls.
He founded the site Hatreon, which he called the “#1 funding platform for the Alt Right,” in 2017. The name is a play on the site Patreon, which serves as a crowdfunding resource for artists and other creators.
In reality, Hatreon was a safe space for the internet’s worst people to gather and distribute cash to one another. The rest of the crowdfunding internet, including sites like Patreon, GoFundMe and even PayPal, was cracking down on hateful members, and that’s where Hatreon found an audience. ThinkProgress reports that Andrew Anglin, the neo-Nazi founder of the Daily Stormer, was making $8,000 per month on Hatreon, while lesser white supremacist Richard Spencer was pulling in $1,000 per month.
By November of last year, a major credit card company had already booted Hatreon off its network, Wilson told The New York Times, and Hatreon.net was shut down. The site reportedly came and went again earlier this year, but hasn’t made any headway since.
In January, Wilson tweeted that “there’s a difference between being down and being out of business.”
He allegedly sexually abused a teen girl and then took off for Taiwan.
On Wednesday, Wilson was charged with sexually assaulting a minor, according to Vice News.
But before they had a warrant for his arrest ready, Austin police said Wilson departed for Taiwan, where he’s believed to be staying right now. Police said he learned of his pending arrest, promptly left the country and later missed his flight back to the United States. He was last seen in Taipei.
“We know that Mr. Wilson frequently travels for business,” Trey Officer of the Austin Police Department’s organized crime division told reporters on Wednesday. “We don’t know why he went to Taiwan, but we do know that before he left, he was informed by a friend of the victim that she had spoken to the police and they were investigating him for sex with a minor.”
It’s unclear how the U.S. government could get him back, as there’s no extradition treaty between Taiwan and the U.S.
It’s also unclear what Wilson’s departure means for his gun business and his ongoing court battles. He was scheduled to appear at a gun conference in Chicago this weekend, according to Vice News, but the appearance has been canceled.
The Taiwanese government and Wilson himself didn’t respond to calls for comment from HuffPost.