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Press Release

Convicted Felon Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Kidnapping and Possessing Firearms

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

Assistant U. S. Attorney Joseph J.M. Orabona (619) 546-7951

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – September 24, 2021

SAN DIEGO – Joseph Anthony Martino, a convicted felon with a long criminal history that prevents him from legally owning guns, was sentenced in federal court today to 120 months in prison for kidnapping and possessing firearms.

In October 2020, Martino pleaded guilty and admitted that on April 1, 2019, he held three people hostage at his Lakeside home, pointing loaded guns – including a fully automatic assault rifle - at their heads and threatening them.

This case is part of the Department of Justice’s nationwide commitment to reduce gun crimes known as Project Safe Neighborhoods, or PSN. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime.  Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders works together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develops 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.

“The use of a gun to commit a crime changes everything,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “The victims of gun-related crimes may be forever traumatized, and we remain focused on preventing and prosecuting these crimes because the stakes are so high.” Grossman thanked prosecutor Joseph Orabona as well as agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Sheriff’s investigators for their excellent work on this case.

On April 1, 2019, Martino confined three victims at his residence in Lakeside, California, and held them at gunpoint in order to confront one of the victims about a personal relationship, according to court records.

At first, Martino brandished a loaded Heckler & Koch, model HK-91, .308 caliber rifle, which was fully automatic, at two of the victims (a male and a female).  While holding the female victim hostage at gunpoint in his residence, Martino caused the male victim to drive to the third victim’s residence to bring the third victim (female) back to Martino’s residence. When the third victim arrived at Martino’s residence, the male victim escaped. Martino held a loaded handgun to the heads of the two female victims to confine and coerce them to remain in his residence. Eventually, both female victims were able to leave Martino’s residence unharmed.

According to court records, San Diego Sheriff’s deputies and detectives from the Special Enforcement Detail and Crime Suppression Team executed a search warrant at Martino’s residence on July 3, 2019. Sheriff’s deputies and detectives recovered the Heckler & Koch, model HK-91, .308 caliber rifle. In addition, law enforcement located approximately 3,500 rounds of assorted ammunition, 19 different magazines, a ballistic body armor engraved with “U.S. Navy Security Forces,” various rifle upper rails, two lower AR-15 receivers, and smoke grenades. 

On August 5, 2019, a complaint was filed against Martino for being a felon in possession of a firearm.  On August 6, 2019, Martino was arrested and appeared in federal court. On August 14, 2019, the court ordered Martino to be detained without bail, and he has been in continuous custody since his arrest. 

On October 5, 2020, Martino was arraigned on the charges in this case. At the time, Martino entered into a plea agreement to resolve his case. That same day, Martino entered a guilty plea to kidnapping and being a felon in possession of a firearm. As part of his plea agreement, Martino admitted his criminal past, which included felony convictions for DUI, possession of a silencer, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. 

Also, as part of his plea agreement, Martino agreed to forfeit all of the firearms, ammunition, rails, receivers, smoke grenades, and body armor.  At sentencing, the Court entered an order of forfeiture. 

“A convicted felon in possession of a firearm, inherently presents a danger to the community,” said Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division Monique Villegas. “While being prohibited from possessing a firearm, Martino found a way to acquire a firearm, then use it to violently terrorize his victims. The federal prosecution of this case demonstrates ATF’s dedication to reducing gun crime through Project Safe Neighborhoods and by partnering with our local and federal partners, in this case the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

“The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is grateful to our local and federal agencies who helped bring justice to the victims in this case,” said Sheriff Bill Gore. “We are extremely appreciative of the U.S. Attorney's Office for their partnership and aggressive prosecution. We look forward to collaborating with our agency partners on future investigations as we continue to address gun violence throughout our county.”

Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a nationwide commitment to reduce gun crime in American communities by networking with existing local programs that target these issues and provide these programs with additional tools necessary to be successful. PSN has operated as the U.S. Department of Justice’s primary initiative focused on reduction of gun crime since May of 2001. PSN is a collaborative effort between federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutors. 

DEFENDANT                                               Case Number 19CR3387-JLS                                             

Joseph Anthony Martino                                Age: 47                       Lakeside, CA


Kidnapping – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1201(a)(1)

Maximum penalty: Life in prison and $250,000 fine

Felon in Possession of a Firearm – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 922(g)(1)

Maximum penalty: Ten years in prison, $250,000 fine, and forfeiture of all firearms/ammunition


Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

Updated September 24, 2021

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: CAS21-0924-Martino