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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Pittsburgh Felon with Nazi Obsession Pleads Guilty to Illegal Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition

PITTSBURGH, PA - A resident of Pittsburgh’s North Side has waived indictment and pleaded guilty to violating federal firearms law, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

Dennis Alan Riggs, 51, pleaded guilty to one count of possession of firearms and ammunition by a convicted felon before U.S. District Judge Robert J. Colville. Riggs has been detained since his arrest in January 2020 and will remain detained pending sentencing.

"Each day, our office and our federal partners investigate and prosecute people who represent threats to our communities," said U.S. Attorney Brady. "Riggs is a felon with a history of violence who espoused white supremacist ideology, who illegally possessed multiple firearms and ammunition. Pittsburgh is safer today because Dennis Riggs is behind bars."

"The FBI is committed to keeping our community safe," said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. "This case was a joint effort with our local, state and federal partners on the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). Today's change of plea should send a message to everyone that the FBI will use all resources to make sure firearms are kept out of the hands of those prohibited from having them."

According to information provided to the court, on January 22, 2020 the defendant knowingly possessed 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; a Harrington & Richardson shotgun; and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. 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 convicted killer Dylann Roof with his current Bureau of Prisons contact information. Riggs decorated his house with Nazi

and Hitler posters and pictures, and possessed numerous other weapons, knives and daggers.

Judge Colville scheduled sentencing for September 17, 2020 at 10 a.m. The law provides for a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years, 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 conviction 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.

This case was brought as part of Project Guardian. Reducing gun violence and enforcing federal firearms laws have always been among the Department of Justice’s highest priorities. Project Guardian serves as a complementary effort to the success of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN).

Topic(s): 
Project Guardian
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses
Updated May 13, 2020