SANTA ANA, California– A Los Angeles man has pleaded guilty to federal charges related to a series of burglaries in which well over 100 firearms were stolen from businesses operated by federal firearms licensees.
Eddie Lee Harris Jr., 27, who lives in the Harvard Park district of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of conspiracy and one count of theft of firearms from a federally licensed firearms dealer. When he is sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney on January 30, Harris faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.
Over a 2½-month period in late 2015, Harris conspired with several others to steal firearms from gun-related businesses in a series of burglaries and attempted burglaries in Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties, according to a plea agreement filed in United States District Court.
Also yesterday, another Los Angeles man who participated in the burglaries was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison. Faizon Azante Donnie, 20, who also resides in the Harvard Park district of Los Angeles, pleaded on June 6 to one count of theft of firearms from a federal firearms licensee (FFL) and admitted that he participated in two of the burglaries.
“Participants in this ring that targeted firearms dealers directly contributed to an increase in the number of illegal firearms available on the black market and, therefore, indirectly contributed to an increase in violent crime in our community,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This case is the latest example of our commitment to reducing violent crime by working with our federal and local law enforcement partners to curtail the illegal weapons trade and firearms theft.”
This case stems from a series of burglaries in which the thieves broke into gun stores in the early morning hours by breaking glass windows or doors to the businesses. Once inside, the burglars quickly stole handguns, rifles, shotguns and silencers, among other items. The burglaries often lasted less than three minutes. Following the thefts, those involved gathered at South Los Angeles residence, where the guns were divided up. During Donnie's sentencing hearing, Judge Carney described the conduct as “mayhem.”
Donnie became the fourth person sentenced in relation to the spree that led to the theft of 128 firearms. Members of the conspiracy targeted seven firearms-related businesses between August 29 and November 7 last year, including Orange County Firearms and Rifle Gear Company in Fountain Valley, SureFire Institute in Yorba Linda, FMK Firearms in Placentia, Warrior One and American Pacific Rifleworks in Riverside, and ExaTactical Firearms in La Puente.
The three defendants previously sentenced by Judge Carney last month are:
· Kenneth Terell Mullen, 21, of the Mid-City section Los Angeles, who was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison;
· Davell Dejon Mena, 19, of Watts, who was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison; and
· Keon Mena, (Davell Mena's cousin), 19, of the Florence district of Los Angeles, who was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.
A sixth defendant in the case – Brittani Nicole Collins – pleaded guilty in January and is pending sentencing.
Another defendant, Derrick Smith, 27, of the Vermont-Slauson section of Los Angeles, is expected to plead guilty later this week.
The final defendant in the case, Teophelus Lee Usher, is currently at large and is wanted by law enforcement.The 20-year-old Usher is a fugitiveafter fleeing earlier this year from his Exposition Park residence. Usher had been under house arrest after being granted bond following his arrest in this case.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“This burglary ring caused significant damage to local small businesses and caused a substantial threat to the public and law enforcement as stolen firearms all too often wind up in the hands of violent offenders in the commission of crimes,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Eric D. Harden. “Members of the public should contact their local police department or ATF if they have any information on fugitive Teophelus Usher.”
Anyone with information about Usher is urged to contact the ATF at 1-800-ATF-GUNS.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott D. Tenley of the Santa Ana Branch Office.
USAO – California, Central Updated September 13, 2016
Central District of California DOJ / 16-216 / September 13, 2016