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Detroit – A reality show star from northern Michigan was charged Wednesday with illegally possessing a machine gun in a case involving undercover federal agents and an AR-15 rifle.

Brandon Putman, 31, of Pigeon in Huron County, who stars alongside relatives in the TLC show “Meet the Putmans,” faces two federal gun charges after being accused of trying to obtain copies of a component that would help convert AR-15 rifles into fully automatic machine guns.

The AR-15 has factored into national gun control debates after assailants used the weapon in several mass shootings, including one at a Florida high school Wednesday that killed 17 people.

Putman, who could not be reached for comment, stars with three generations of relatives living under one roof. The father of five made an initial appearance Thursday in federal court in Bay City and was released on $10,000 unsecured bond.

If convicted, Putman faces up to 10 years in federal prison. His court-appointed attorney could not be reached for comment.

“ATF agents conducted law enforcement activity in the Pigeon, Michigan and Cass City area today,” ATF spokeswoman Ronnie Dahl said in a statement. “At this time, we can not comment on the scope of the investigation.”

The case against Putman dates to November. That’s when he entered a machine shop in nearby Elkton and asked the owner to duplicate a metal part, according to federal court records.

The owner was suspicious that the metal item was a firearm component. Putman asked to have 10 copies of the part produced and the owner quoted an $800 price, according to Stephen Ross, special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Later, the owner learned that the part was similar to a component used to convert an AR-15 into a fully automatic assault rifle.

The owner contacted ATF agents after Putman left the shop.

On Dec. 15, the agent inspected the part and confirmed it resembled a component for an AR-15 rifle.

“I believe that Brandon Putman likely acquired additional M16 machine gun parts to assist in the conversion to fully automatic,” Ross wrote.

The part Putman possessed, if legally registered, would be worth $40,000, the agent wrote.

An undercover ATF agent called Putman last month, posing as an employee of the machine shop. The agent dialed the phone number Putman left with the shop owner and the number is the same as the Putman family’s business, Putman Developing and Demolition.

During the conversation, Putman agreed to pay $100 for each duplicated part, according to court records.

On Jan. 20, Putman texted the undercover ATF agent to inquire about the status of the 10 parts he had ordered, according to the government.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2486

Twitter: @robertsnellnews

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