Two veteran ex-Gardena Police Department officers are expected to be sentenced Monday for scheming to purchase “off-roster” firearms not available to the public and then illegally reselling the weapons for profit.
Carlos Miguel Fernandez, 44, of Norwalk, and Edward Yasushiro Arao, 49, of Eastvale were found guilty by a jury in November of conspiracy to sell almost 90 weapons — mostly Colt .38-caliber pistols — without a license.
The verdicts in Los Angeles federal court came on the sixth day of their trial.
Prosecutors are asking U.S. District Judge S. James Otero to sentence Fernandez and Aroa to 63 and 33 months behind bars, respectively. The defense recommends no more than 41 months for Fernandez, and a year of probation with some community service for his co-defendant.
The jury determined that both 17-year veterans of the Gardena police force marketed firearms at gun shows, although neither defendant was licensed to engage in the business of firearms dealing at the time of the offenses outlined in the indictment. At least one of the weapons ended up in the hands of a man with a prior criminal conviction that prohibits him from possessing firearms, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Of the firearms Arao sold, four were recovered at crime scenes involving drug trafficking, federal prosecutors said.
“Their job was to uphold the law and keep communities safe,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Veronica Dragalin told the jury, and instead they “used their status to break the law.”
The jury in downtown Los Angeles heard that Fernandez advertised guns offered by himself, Arao and others on his Instagram account. Arao, who was the CEO of Ronin Tactical Group, a federal firearms licensee, similarly advertised guns on his company’s account.
“Off-roster” handguns are not available to the general public, but can be legally purchased by law enforcement officers.
Through messages on Instagram and other means, Fernandez and Arao negotiated the prices and terms of the sales, and accepted payment for the guns once they were delivered.
Fernandez and Arao are no longer with the department, a police spokesperson said.
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