Two Kings County Men Charged with Possessing and Selling Machine Guns
FRESNO, Calif. — A three-count indictment was unsealed today charging Eric Lopez Mercado, 25, of Lemoore, and Jose Moreno, 24 of Hanford, with illegally possessing and transferring machine guns, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
The indictment charges Mercado and Moreno with possessing several pistols that had no serial number markings but had conversion devices attached to the rear of the firearms that enabled them to function as fully automatic weapons. Both men are also charged with transferring a machine gun to another person and possessing a device capable of converting a handgun into a machine gun.
This case is the product of a multi-agency investigation into the criminal activities of individuals associated with the Nuestra Familia prison gang. That investigation culminated in the arrests of over 50 individuals on federal and state charges, including Mercado and Moreno. The investigation was led by the Kings County Gang Task Force; Agents of the Special Operations Unit – a team of agents from the California Department of Justice and the California Highway Patrol; California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the FBI; and the Kings County District Attorney's Office. The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. Marshals Service, and Homeland Security Investigations all assisted with the arrests. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Sanchez and Justin Gilio are prosecuting the case.
If convicted, both Mercado and Moreno face 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 charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. 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.
This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF Program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.