A large gun and ammunition collection stolen from a San Fernando Valley storage facility was recovered this week, following the arrest of a 44-year-old man who police believe was attempting to sell the weapons, authorities said.
Michael Mendoza was arrested Tuesday after authorities identified him as a gun-trafficking suspect trying to illegally sell firearms, Los Angeles police said.
Mendoza, prohibited from possessing guns, was charged with drug and firearm possession.
A second suspect, 44-year-old Edwin Arguera, also was arrested while police served warrants on two addresses in Northridge, one in the 17000 block of Sammy Lane; the other in the 9900 block of Balboa Boulevard.
Arguera was arrested due to a “no bail felony warrant,” LAPD officials said.
LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said during a news conference Thursday that Mendoza, who he described as an “admitted gang member,” was “involved in a burglary” that resulted in several weapons “stolen from the rightful owner.”
The trove of confiscated firearms includes thousands of rounds of live ammunition and 39 firearms, five of which were semi-automatic assault rifles and several handguns and shotguns, police said.
Also among the stolen items was boxing gear, including a robe, glove and shoes, authorities said.
Detectives suspect the firearms and other items were stolen from a San Fernando Valley storage space and moved to another valley storage facility.
The investigation determined that Mendoza “intended to sell these guns to other gang members within the San Fernando Valley and in fact was poised to do so at the time our search warrants were executed,” Albanese said. The guns and ammunition “would have ended up on the streets of the San Fernando Valley, putting the public and law enforcement in danger,” particularly with the assault rifles, which are “weapons of war” made for the sole purpose of killing, Albanese said.
Authorities also confiscated a pound of methamphetamine, $2,500 in cash and a credit-card-making machine suspected to be used for identity theft.
Investigators believe at least one of the suspects took part in several burglaries at public storage facilities in the area and was involved in credit card fraud.
Albanese used the opportunity of the gun seizure this week to warn gun owners to find more secure storage for their firearms.
“This inventory of firearms does not belong in a storage facility,” Albanese said. “They belong in a gun safe, properly secured at a proper location, so that the wrong people can’t get access to them.”
He noted the city recently adopted a law — likely to go into effect in about a month — that requires handguns be disabled or locked up when stored, so that children or those with mental illness cannot get easy access to them.
He also recommended that rifles and other long guns not included in the law should be secured in a gun safe.
Gun owners in California must now register any firearm they own, under a law that went into effect in 2014, Albanese said.
— Wire reports