News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California

U.S. Attorney, ATF, and Fresno Police Department Announce Results of Collaboration in Federal Firearms Prosecutions for 2013 in the Fresno Area

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 13, 2014
 

www.usdoj.gov/usao/cae

usacae.edcapress@usdoj.gov

 

FRESNO, Calif. — United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today last year’s results in a continuing effort by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to prosecute gun violence in the Fresno area. The federal firearms prosecutions are a product of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a United States Department of Justice initiative that is an effort to join law enforcement agencies together in fighting gun violence. Under the Smart on Crime Initiative announced by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in August of last year, combatting gun crime is a high priority of the U.S. Department of Justice.

In 2013, at least 100 defendants were charged with federal firearms offenses by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California. The area in and around the City of Fresno, however, has been a particular focus of firearms prosecutions, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is working closely with the Fresno Police Department, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI, and other law enforcement partners to target armed and dangerous criminals in that region.

In 2013, thirty-four defendants in the City of Fresno and the surrounding Fresno County area were charged with federal firearms offenses. Two more persons from Tulare County and four more from Madera County were charged with federal firearms offenses, for a total of 40 defendants in the three-county area.

Ten of the defendants charged in 2013 have already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison, and five more have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. In addition, at least 30 more defendants from the City of Fresno and the surrounding Fresno County area who were charged in prior years with federal firearms offenses were sentenced since the beginning of 2013. Another two defendants from Madera County charged in prior years with federal firearms offenses were sentenced in 2013. During 2013, therefore, a total of 42 persons from Fresno, Tulare and Madera Counties were sent to federal prison on firearms convictions.

The federal firearms offenses charged in these cases are felonies; convictions often result in substantial, multiyear prison sentences. All 42 defendants from this area who were sentenced on federal firearms charges since the beginning of 2013 received prison sentences; more than half are now serving sentences of more than five years in prison. Parole has been abolished in the federal system, and defendants must serve at least 85 percent of the prison time imposed. Many convicted defendants serve their sentences at federal prisons far from the Fresno area. The firearms offenses include use of a firearm in the course of a drug trafficking offense or crime of violence; possession of a firearm by a felon; possession of an unregistered firearm such as a fully automatic assault rifle, a sawed‑off shotgun or an explosive device; or possession of a firearm by an illegal alien. Some defendants were also convicted of narcotics offenses or other federal crimes.

“In our effort to combat gun crime, we have worked closely with our law enforcement partners to target dangerous armed criminals,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Thanks to an outstanding working relationship between federal and local law enforcement agencies in the Fresno area, this effort is taking large numbers of these criminals off the streets for long periods of time.”

“Through the PSN Project, ATF, along with our partners, can address those criminals who commit violent crime and who unlawfully possess the fire power that is keeping our communities under siege,” said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Riehl.

“Targeting gangs and seizing firearms from violent criminals will continue to be the number one priority of the Fresno Police Department. Our partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office through Project Safe Neighborhoods has sent a strong message to gang members in our community that gun violence will not be tolerated."

A few examples of federal firearms convictions in 2013 resulting from this collaborative effort include the following:

  • On November 12, 2013, Fernando Casas, 35, a Bond Street Bulldog gang member, was sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison after being convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Bond had nine felony convictions between 1998 and 2011, including firearms, controlled substance and property offenses.
  • On November 12, 2013, Robert Cervantes, 35, a Fresno/Clovis gang member, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after selling methamphetamine to a confidential informant in April 2011 and then being arrested in May 2011 in possessing a revolver and an ounce of methamphetamine that he intended to sell. Cervantes had five felony drug trafficking convictions between 1997 and 2008.
  • On November 18, 2013, Luis Montoy, 35, was sentenced to six years and five months in prison after being convicted of being a felon in possession of ammunition. Montoy was arrested for being a parolee at large by members of the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force. He was in possession of a black powder gun and ammunition. He had three felony convictions between 2001 and 2009 for firearms, domestic violence, and controlled substance offenses.
  • On May 6, 2013, Nicholas Andronicous, 31, of Fresno, was sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison after being arrested for being a felon in possession of ammunition and possessing an unregistered short-barreled rifle. According to court documents, Andronicous was encountered in May 2012 in response to a domestic violence call, and was in possession of methamphetamine, multiple firearms and ammunition. He was then encountered in June of 2012 in a traffic stop and found in possession of another firearm and ammunition. Andronicous had three felony convictions between 2004 and 2006 for controlled substance and other offenses.
  • On August 12, 2013, Eric Moore, 36, of Fresno, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for being a felon in possession of multiple firearms. As indicated in court documents, Moore and other defendants were involved in burglarizing firearms dealers in Torrance and Corona, Calif. and bringing 54 stolen rifles and handguns to Fresno to sell to gang members and others.
  • On September 3, 2013, Ralph Haros, 49, of Fresno, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Haros was arrested by members of the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force on a parole warrant. He had five felony convictions between 1986 and 2003 for burglary, domestic violence, controlled substance, and firearms offenses.
  • On September 23, 2013, Edward Mitchell, 33, of Fresno, was sentenced to eight years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. According to court documents, Mitchell possessed two pistols, one of which he used to shoot and kill a cocaine customer who had shot Mitchell and several others at Mitchell’s apartment. Two others at the apartment were shot, one succumbed to his injuries and died.

These cases are the product of investigations by multiple agencies, including the Fresno Police Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the FBI; DEA; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and several other sheriff’s offices and police departments in Fresno, Tulare and Madera counties. The MAGEC task force and the Fresno County District Attorney’s office also played a critical role in multiple cases. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kim Sanchez, Laurel Montoya, Kathleen Servatius, Karen Escobar, Michael Frye, Melanie Alsworth, Grant Rabenn, and Kevin Rooney.

The charges against those defendants who have not been convicted are only allegations; each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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