A jury found two Gardena Police officers guilty federal criminal charges for scheming to purchase “off-roster” firearms not available to the general public and then illegally reselling the firearms for profit. The jury found Carlos Miguel Fernandez, 44, of Norwalk, and Edward Yasushiro Arao, 49, of Eastvale, guiilty of conspiracy to engage in the business of dealing firearms without a license and of substantive counts of engaging in an unlicensed firearms business. Fernandez also was convicted of an additional conspiracy count, selling firearms to a convicted felon, and of making false statements about the sales on federal firearms licensing paperwork.
Fernandez, whose Instagram handle was “the38superman,” 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 off-roster guns on the company’s Instagram account that he then re-sold in his individual capacity. Additionally, both men marketed firearms at gun shows. Neither man were licensed individually to deal in firearms when the illegal gun sales took place.
The men used their position as police officers to ensure the success of their illegal gun selling business. Fernandez 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.
Between May 2016 and December 2017, Fernandez negotiated and arranged the sale of 10 firearms to a convicted felon, Oscar Maravilla Camacho Jr., 36, of Salinas. With respect to every sale, Fernandez communicated directly with Camacho Jr. about the firearms purchases and understood that Camacho Jr., as a felon, could not legally buy the weapons. Nevertheless, Fernandez transferred the weapons to Camacho Jr. in violation of federal law.
Fernandez faces a statutory maximum of 35 years in federal prison and Arao faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
Six other defendants in this case have pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges for distribution of cocaine, conspiracy to dispose of firearms to a felon, and making false statements that led to the straw purchase of several firearms.