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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 10, 2015

More Than 50 Guns Seized And Four Men Charged In Illegal Firearms Trafficking Operation

SAN DIEGO – Four men appeared in federal court today and yesterday to face charges that they participated in a scheme to manufacture and traffic in firearms illegally, in some instances by assembling untraceable assault-style weapons in a defendant’s home and then selling the guns for thousands of dollars.

Federal, state and local law enforcement officials served multiple search warrants and made the arrests Friday at locations in Bonsall and Escondido and Temecula. During the searches and throughout the investigation, agents seized more than 50 firearms, including silencers, a short-barreled shotgun, unfinished lower receivers and AR-15-style homemade assault rifles. Some of the firearms were stolen, or had obliterated serial numbers, or both. Agents also found thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Christian Romero, Clay Bautista-Marquez, Ruben Tovar-Ordonez and Matthew Nutt were taken into custody separately on Friday. Romero and Nutt are charged via complaint with engaging in the business of manufacturing and dealing in firearms without a license; Bautista and Tovar are charged via indictment with unlawful dealing in firearms.

A fifth man, Michael Martin, was also arrested and charged via complaint with possession of a firearm – specifically two silencers - not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

All but Martin were held without bond, pending upcoming detention hearings. Martin was to be released on a $20,000 bond.

During the searches Friday, agents also found numerous unfinished lower receivers commonly known as ULRs. ULRs can be lawfully purchased and sold by individuals who do not possess a Federal Firearms License because they are not considered firearms. Manufacturers are not required to mark ULRs with make, model and serial number. They can be manufactured into completed receivers, which are classified as firearms under federal law. An individual engaged in the business of manufacturing completed receivers or dealing in completed receivers is required to have a Federal Firearms License. Otherwise, doing so is a violation of federal law.

“Firearms traffickers who fly under the radar of law enforcement, assembling dangerous and untraceable assault-style weapons in the privacy of their homes, are a significant challenge and a major concern to me,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “Because of this investigation, scores of these guns have been removed from the underground market and our communities are safer as a result.”

Many of the assault rifles seized by agents were manufactured from unfinished lower receivers. ATF Special Agent in Charge Carlos A. Canino stated, “These weapons are particularly dangerous because they bear no manufacturer markings or serial numbers making them virtually impossible to trace.” Canino added, “When law enforcement officials join forces in this type of investigation, the result is a significant disruption in violent crime.”


DEFENDANT   Case Number: 15MJ0740
Matthew Nutt Age: 29 Escondido, California
 
CHARGES

Engaging in the Business of Dealing in Firearms without a License, in violation of 18 USC 922(a)(1)(A)

Maximum Penalties: Five years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000, and a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years.

DEFENDANT   Case Number: 15MJ0721
Christian Romero Age: 21 Bonsall, California
 
CHARGES

Engaging in the Business of Dealing in Firearms without a License, in violation of 18 USC 922(a)(1)(A)

Maximum Penalties: Five years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000, and a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years.

DEFENDANTS   Case Number: 14CR3360
Clay Bautista-Marquez Age: 30 Bonsall, California
Ruben Tovar-Ordonez Age: 45 Temecula, California
 
CHARGES

Unlawful Dealing in Firearms, in violation of18 USC 922(a)(1)(A). Maximum Penalties Five years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000, and a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years.


DEFENDANT   Case Number: 15mj0741
Michael Martin Age: 38 Bonsall, California
 
CHARGES

Possession of a Firearm not Registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d). Maximum Penalties: Ten years in prison, $10,000 fine.

 
INVESTIGATING AGENCIES

Drug Enforcement Administration
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Internal Revenue Service
Bureau of Land Management
San Diego Police Department
Immigration and Customs Enforcement –Enforcement and Removal Operations
United States Marshal’s Service
San Diego Sheriff’s Department

*A complaint is not evidence that the defendants committed the crimes charged. The defendants are presumed innocent until the Government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated July 23, 2015