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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Idaho

Friday, July 12, 2013

Second Defendant Pleads Guilty; Admits Illegally PossessingMachine Gun

BOISE – Phillip Bernardino Chavez, 29, of Las Vegas, Nevada, pleaded guilty yesterday in United States District Court to count two of a superseding indictment charging him with illegal possession of a machine gun, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced.

According to the plea agreement, in December 2012, Chavez’s co-defendant, Ronald Alexander, offered to sell a rifle to a Nampa Police detective working undercover. After discussing the terms of a transaction, Alexander told the undercover officer that an automatic rifle would cost $3,200. Arrangements were made for the undercover officer to purchase the firearm during a controlled operation. On December 18, 2012, the undercover officer met with Alexander and Chavez. Chavez presented the undercover officer with a Pioneer Arms Corporation 7.62x25 rifle and a bag containing three magazines, in exchange for $3,200. At the conclusion of the transaction, law enforcement agents arrested Alexander and Chavez. Chavez admitted in court yesterday that he knew the firearm was a fully automatic machine gun.

Forensic examination of the firearm by ATF’s technology branch confirmed the firearm is a machine gun, as it automatically shoots more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.

The charge of illegally possessing a machine gun is punishable by up to ten years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release.

Chavez is scheduled to be sentenced on September 23, 2013, by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge at the federal courthouse in Boise.

Co-defendant Ronald Keith Alexander, 38, of Boise, pleaded guilty in May 2013 to one count of unlawfully possessing a firearm and one count of transferring a firearm in violation of the National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record. Alexander is prohibited from possessing firearms due to a 2001 felony conviction for robbery, in Walla Walla County, Washington. He is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on July 15, 2013.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Nampa Police Department, and Boise Police Department.

The defendants are being prosecuted by the Special Assistant U.S. Attorney hired by the Treasure Valley Partnership and the State of Idaho to address gang crimes. The Treasure Valley Partnership is comprised of a group of elected officials in southwest Idaho dedicated to regional coordination, cooperation, and collaboration on creating coherent regional growth. For more information, visit treasurevalleypartners.org.

Updated December 15, 2014