LOS ANGELES – Two members of the Gardena Police Department were charged by a federal grand jury with participating in a scheme in which they purchased “off-roster” firearms not available to the general public and illegally operated businesses that resold the weapons.
The two police officers were charged in a five-count indictment that was unsealed Friday afternoon. The indictment alleges that the officers conspired with each other and that each engaged in the business of dealing in firearms without a license.
The two officers are collectively charged with illegally selling approximately 100 firearms, mostly .38-caliber pistols. The two defendants are:
· Carlos Miguel Fernandez, 42, of Norwalk, whose Instagram handle was “the38superman,” and
· Edward Yasushiro Arao, 47, of Eastvale.
Both defendants have been summoned to appear on April 3 for arraignments in United States District Court. According to the indictment, Fernandez advertised firearms for sale – guns being offered by both himself, Arao and others – on his Instagram account. The vast majority of posts on the account contained images of firearms. Arao, who was the CEO of Ronin Tactical Group, which was a federal firearms licensee (FFL), similarly advertised guns on the company's Instagram account. Additionally, both defendants marketed firearms at gun shows. Neither defendant was licensed individually to engage in the business of dealing in firearms when the illegal gun sales alleged in the indictment took place.
Fernandez allegedly purchased “off-roster” firearms – mostly Colt .38-caliber handguns that were not available to the general public, but which could be legally purchased by law enforcement officers – and sold dozens of these weapons through private-party transfers. Similarly, Arao obtained “off-roster” weapons by transferring them to himself individually from the inventory of Ronin Tactical Group. Through messages on Instagram and other means, Fernandez and Arao negotiated the prices and terms of firearm sales, and they accepted payment for the guns once they were delivered, according to the indictment.
The indictment in this case was unsealed Friday afternoon after two other defendants in the case were arraigned in federal court on charges that they engaged in a “straw purchase” transaction involving a gun sold through Fernandez. The indictment alleges that Oscar Morales Camacho Sr., 63, of Salinas, falsely certified that he was purchasing a firearm for himself in a 2017 private-party transfer, when he in fact was buying the gun for his son, Oscar Maravilla Camacho Jr., 34, also of Salinas. Camacho Jr. has a prior criminal conviction that prohibits him from possessing firearms. The indictment alleges that Fernandez and both Camachos “well knew [that] defendant Camacho Sr. was not the actual buyer of the firearm.”
At their arraignments last week, both Camachos entered not guilty pleas and were ordered to stand trial on May 31.
The indictment alleges a second “straw purchaser” transaction in which a South Los Angeles woman allegedly purchased two firearms for her boyfriend. As in the other straw purchase alleged in the indictment, Bianca Elizabeth Ibarria, 23, and Adalberto deJesus Vasquez Pelayo Jr., 24, also of South Los Angeles, are charged with making a false statement in a federal firearm licensee's records during purchase of a firearm. Ibarria and Pelayo also have been directed to appear in federal court for arraignments on April 3.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Each count in the indictment carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. Therefore, if convicted of all charges, Fernandez would face up to 15 years in federal prison, and Arao could be sentenced to as much as 10 years.
This case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Gardena Police Department provided its full cooperation during the investigation.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Katherine A. Rykken of the Major Frauds Section.
Component(s): USAO – California, Central
Contact: Thom Mrozek Spokesperson/Public Affairs Officer United States Attorney's Office Central District of California (Los Angeles) 213-894-6947
Press Release Number: 18-046Updated March 26, 2018
Central District of California DOJ / 18-046 / March 26, 2018