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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 18, 2019

South Lake Tahoe Man Charged in Firearms and Narcotics Crimes

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment today against Christopher Louis Wadstein, 31, of South Lake Tahoe, charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, in May 2018, burglars stole several firearms from a car parked outside a hotel in South Lake Tahoe. Not long after the theft, officers received information that the firearms were in Wadstein’s possession. Officers were able to locate a car Wadstein had rented and searched it, finding a backpack with five handguns and ammunition in it. The firearms were later confirmed to have been among those stolen from the car outside the hotel. Following his arrest, Wadstein later admitted to having received the guns and ammunition, and to stashing them in his car. Wadstein has two prior state felony convictions for endangering public safety while fleeing from the police, and one felony conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Because of these convictions, Wadstein is prohibited from possessing firearms.

Wadstein was charged in El Dorado County Superior Court for his possession of the firearms, but fled before his preliminary hearing. The court issued a bench warrant for his failure to appear.

In May 2019, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department received information that Wadstein had returned to Northern California. On May 21, 2019, officers were able to locate his vehicle within Sacramento County and attempted to make a traffic stop. Instead, Wadstein fled, leading police on a high speed pursuit, during which Wadstein collided with numerous other drivers, drove the wrong way down several streets, exceeded 100 mph on surface roads, and tried to ram law enforcement vehicles. One collision caused Wadstein’s vehicle to catch fire and he was forced to abandon it, fleeing on foot. As he ran, he scattered a bag of methamphetamine he was carrying. Ultimately, he was unable to escape police on foot and surrendered. Officers later recovered approximately 335 grams of methamphetamine from the ground where Wadstein had discarded it.

This case is the product of an investigation by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, the Bismarck Police Department, the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, the California Highway Patrol, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney James R. Conolly is prosecuting the case.

If convicted of the count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, Wadstein faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted of the possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute count, he faces a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in prison and a $5 million 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 charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Press Release Number: 
2:19-cr-118 TLN
Updated July 18, 2019