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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, January 24, 2020

Pittsburgh Felon with Nazi Obsession Charged with Illegal Possession of a Firearm

Dennis Riggs was ordered detained pending trial

PITTSBURGH, PA - A criminal complaint has been filed in federal court against a resident of Pittsburgh, Pa., charging him with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

The one-count Criminal Complaint named Dennis Alan Riggs, 50, as the sole defendant. Riggs made his initial appearance in federal court on Wednesday. Today he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan. Riggs waived his preliminary exam and was ordered detained following the presentation of evidence by the government during his detention hearing.

According to the Criminal Complaint, on January 22, 2020 at approximately 6 a.m., FBI Special Agents and Task Force Officers executed a federal search warrant at 1540 Hatteras Street on Pittsburgh’s North Side as part of an ongoing investigation. During the search, law enforcement located seven firearms: a Ruger .223 Caliber AR-15 style rifle; a Ruger .22 caliber revolver; a Harrington & Richardson shotgun; a .38 special revolver; a Colt .38 Caliber revolver; a US revolver, 32 Caliber, which was loaded and with the hammer cocked; and a Harrington & Richardson shotgun. Agents also located multiple rounds of ammunition in the residence. Riggs is prohibited from possessing a firearm because he was convicted on March 30, 1994, of Aggravated Assault in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Federal law prohibits an individual who has been convicted of a felony from possessing a firearm or ammunition.

According to information presented at the detention hearing, Riggs was aware that he was prohibited from possessing a weapon due to a prior felony conviction. Agents found on his phone a video depicting Riggs wearing Nazi apparel, offering Nazi salutes and loading and unloading an AR-15 style rifle; a video of the 2019 Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shootings which killed 51; images of the defendant with firearms; and a photograph of Dylann Roof with his current Bureau of Prisons contact information. Roof was convicted in the 2015 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Riggs decorated his house with Nazi and Hitler posters and pictures; possessed numerous other weapons, knives and daggers; and had hundreds of bottles of liquor and alcohol. The government also presented evidence showing six of the seven guns found during the search were loaded.

"Riggs’s Nazi videos, photos and paraphernalia clearly show his obsession with hate-based violence. His cache of firearms clearly show his capability to act on that obsession," U.S. Attorney Brady said. "Our Office is committed to identifying, disrupting and preventing such potential threats to our community."

"This is a coordinated effort to keep our community safe," said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Robert Jones. " I commend our Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which includes our local, state and federal partners, for their investigative efforts in identifying and arresting this suspect. The FBI uses all of our resources to make sure firearms are kept out of the hands of those prohibited from having them."

The law provides for a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Jessica L. Smolar is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The FBI Pittsburgh Joint Terrorism Task Force conducted the investigation leading to the criminal complaint in the case. Members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force who were directly involved in this investigation include: FBI, Pennsylvania State Police, Allegheny County Police Department, Allegheny County Probation, and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

A criminal complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant may not be prosecuted unless, within 30 days, a grand jury has found probable cause to believe that the defendant is guilty of an offense.

Topic(s): 
Firearms Offenses
Updated January 24, 2020