Sharod Gibbons had a thing for selling guns, federal agents say, handing them over for cash payments in shopping center parking lots, near a Sacramento middle school, even once in a church on Arden Way.
Unfortunately for Gibbons, one of his best customers was a government informant, who is described in court papers as purchasing dozens of firearms for tens of thousands of dollars over a nine-month period that ended in March 2014, when Gibbons and two other men were charged with federal firearms violations.
The case was part of an undercover crackdown by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento on black market gun sales, including rifles being assembled in homes and shops without serial numbers that are known as “ghost guns.”
Gibbons was one of several defendants caught up in the sting, and on Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento he pleaded guilty to a single count of unlawful manufacturing and dealing in firearms, court documents say.
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Gibbons, who worked in a gun store, faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and entered a plea agreement. He is scheduled to face sentencing Oct. 24 by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez.
The government has agreed to recommend a reduced sentence at that time, although Mendez is not bound by that.
The guilty plea follows a series of transactions that included Gibbons showing off a loaded AK-47 assault rifle and a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle to his buyer in a parking lot at Arden Way and Watt Avenue, near Arden Middle School, in May 2013, court papers say. That buyer, a confidential informant, paid $2,500 that day, court papers say.
Another deal went down at a church on Arden Way where his uncle was the pastor. Gibbons sold two short-barreled rifles to an informant there for $3,000, court papers say.
Two other men who were accused of building weapons illegally previously entered plea deals in the case and were sentenced to time served, according to court papers.
The “ghost gun” crackdown came as Northern California became one of the most popular areas in the country for the homemade manufacture of weapons, especially AR-15 rifles – the civilian equivalent of the military’s M-16 – that are relatively easy to make with the purchase of parts online and use of machine tools, federal officials say.
The boom began after the December 2012 massacre of 26 children and adults at Newtown, Conn., when gun enthusiasts feared the Obama administration might move to ban or restrict some gun sales.