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Feds: California gun dealer stole cops’ identities for illegal handgun sales

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California’s more than 6 million gun owners are going to see new restrictions in 2018 stemming from sweeping regulations lawmakers and voters have approved over the past two years.
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California’s more than 6 million gun owners are going to see new restrictions in 2018 stemming from sweeping regulations lawmakers and voters have approved over the past two years.

A federal firearms dealer in Northern California was charged Tuesday with mail fraud, identity theft and illegal gun sales in an alleged scam that used the stolen names of law enforcement officers to help sell prohibited weapons to members of the public.

Joseph John Deaser IV, who had federal firearms licenses for companies such as Capital Gun Glub and Anarchy Armory on Opportunity Drive in Roseville, was charged in an information filed in federal court in Sacramento with using the names of his own law enforcement customers to sell about 50 new handguns to non-law enforcement buyers in violation of state gun laws.

“The purpose of the scheme was to obtain new non-roster handguns using the identities of sworn peace officers that Deaser would subsequently sell to individuals who were not sworn peace officers, and who were, therefore, prohibited by California law from purchasing new non-roster handguns directly from an FFL,” the charging document states.

Deaser could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and the number for his businesses was not working, but a court filing Wednesday indicated Deaser is scheduled to be arraigned May 30 before U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley. The filing also states that he is to appear for a waiver of indictment and a change of plea hearing.

Deaser faces 10 counts – two alleging mail fraud, one charging aggravated identity theft, six charging he made false entries as a federal firearms license dealer and one alleging illegal sale by a licensed firearms dealer – and could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Court documents say the alleged scheme ran from December 2014 through April 2018 and involved the identities of six different California law enforcement officers who had conducted legitimate firearms transactions with Deaser.

After the purchases, however, Deaser allegedly held onto their driver’s license numbers and other personal information, including a peace officer exemption code required on firearms purchasing forms, court documents say.

“Deaser would then use the law enforcement officers’ information to conduct fictitious sales of non-roster guns that were purportedly to law enforcement officers,” court documents say.

The alleged scheme could have been an attempt to get around a California law that bars state residents from purchasing some new semiautomatic handguns unless they are made with microstamping technology. The feature imprints shell casings with identifying information about the firearm to allow law enforcement to trace weapons.

Sam Paredes, executive director of Guns Owners of California, said no gun manufacturers employ microstamping technology so the measure – known as the California Unsafe Handgun Act – severely limits the ability of the public in California to purchase new semiautomatic handguns.

The law allows only law enforcement officers to purchase such handguns new, and they are permitted to later re-sell them to the public as used handguns through a licensed firearms dealer, Paredes said.

“Let’s say they buy a gun and it doesn’t work for them,” Paredes said. “They are allowed to sell that as a private party transfer.”

But Paredes, who said he was not familiar with the case involving Deaser and was speaking about gun laws in general, said the limits on new handgun purchases in California leave some gun buyers able to purchase only weapons with older designs that may be less safe and more expensive than newer designs that are banned from public purchase in California.

The law, which Paredes said is the only one of its kind in the nation, was upheld last August by a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Court documents allege that Deaser sold about 50 such handguns to members of the public and to himself, and say that for each transaction he filled out a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form “containing false information.”

That information allegedly included Deaser signing the peace officers’ name on the form as the purchaser and using his own thumb or fingerprint on the form, court documents say.

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