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Press Release

Former Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison for Unlawful Sale of Firearms

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

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Ryan McGowan, 34, of Elk Grove, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Troy L. Nunley to 18 months in prison and a $7,000 fine for dealing firearms without a license and for conspiracy to make a false statement on a firearms record, Acting United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.


Former Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy McGowan and his co-defendant Robert Snellings were convicted last year following a jury trial. Snellings, 64, of Rancho Murieta, a former federal firearms licensee, was sentenced last week to one year in prison.


Under state law, California has an approved roster of firearms that may be sold to the public. A federal firearms licensee is required to make sure any handgun sold is on the approved roster. There is an exemption, however, for peace officers to purchase certain firearms known as “off-roster” firearms. Peace officers who own off-roster firearms may sell them in a private sale, so long as it is brokered by a federal firearms licensee. They may not, however, use these private sales to conduct a business whose principal objective is livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms.

According to evidence produced at trial, McGowan used his position as a deputy sheriff to purchase off-roster guns at retail price and then because the firearms could not be purchased directly by the general public, resold them at an inflated price on the private market in California. From 2008 to 2011, McGowan purchased 41 handguns and sold 25 of them within a year after purchase. Thirty-three of the guns were purchased through Snellings Firearms, which was owned by co-defendant Snellings. Some of those weapons were then transferred back to Snellings personally, thereby allowing Snellings to own the weapons himself or sell them to the public.

Both defendants were found guilty of conspiracies to make false statements in federal firearms records. In order to circumvent the restrictions on purchasing off-roster firearms, they falsely stated on ATF forms that a police officer was the actual purchaser when the actual purchaser of the off roster handgun was intended to be a non-officer who was not permitted to buy the gun. Therefore, McGowan and other police officers were acting as a straw purchasers who then transferred the handguns to the real purchasers within a short period of time.

ATF Special Agent in Charge Jill A. Snyder stated: “Ryan McGowan used his position as a law enforcement officer to purchase firearms and sell them illegally. In doing so, he violated federal law and public trust.”

This case was the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with the active involvement of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office and the Sacramento Police Department. The Roseville Police Department and other law enforcement agencies assisted. Assistant United States Attorneys William S. Wong and Michael D. Anderson prosecuted the case.

Updated June 30, 2016

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Press Release Number: 2:12-cr-207-TLN