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Press Release

Bakersfield Man Indicted for Unlawful Possession of Ammunition

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — Jose Betancourt, 28, of Bakersfield, was charged today by a federal grand jury with two counts of being a felon in possession of ammunition, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, on Dec. 9, 2021, law enforcement officers attempted to stop Betancourt for traffic infractions as he drove in Bakersfield. Betancourt sped off and discarded a bag from his moving vehicle that contained an unmarked privately made AR-style rifle known as a “ghost gun,” two armor plate carriers, black gloves, a mask, high-capacity magazines and over 100 rounds of rifle ammunition. The officers recovered Betancourt’s bag in the middle of the street approximately 1,000 feet from Garces High School. Betancourt ultimately crashed his vehicle, exited and ran from pursuing police officers. Immediately prior to surrendering, Betancourt threw a .40 caliber ghost gun with a loaded magazine towards a nearby apartment building. Betancourt cannot lawfully possess firearms or ammunition because he was convicted in 2015 for reckless evasion, and in 2020 for possessing controlled substances for sale and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Bakersfield Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher D. Baker is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Betancourt faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charge is only an allegation; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is being prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

Updated February 17, 2022

Project Safe Neighborhoods