After a two-month undercover operation, federal authorities arrested a 29-year-old Carmichael man late Sunday who they say boasted about converting pistols and rifles to fully automatic weapons, making explosives and selling poison.
James Christopher Malcolm, who lives in the 3200 block of Garfield Ave., was arrested at 9:35 p.m. after agents became concerned that he had discovered he was being watched and that “the public and neighbors in the area” might be in danger, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Sacramento.
Malcolm is charged with unlawful dealing in firearms, unlawful possession and transfer of a machine gun, transferring explosive materials for use in a crime and unlawful manufacturing of a firearm.
The arms trafficking suspect made a brief appearance in federal court Monday, where he was advised of his rights and the charges he faces, according to David Porter, an assistant federal defender representing him. He remains in custody pending a hearing Wednesday.
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The case grew out of a Feb. 26 tip to law enforcement that Malcolm was converting AR-15 rifles and Glock handguns into fully automatic weapons, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court by Daniel Yun, a special agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The tip came from an informant seeking help with a criminal case he is facing, Yun’s affidavit states. Agents had the informant contact Malcolm about obtaining automatic weapons.
The informant and Malcolm met on March 1, with federal agents listening in until Malcolm had the informant pull the battery out of his cellphone, which was being used to monitor the conversation, the affidavit states.
The confidential informant, or “CI,” later told ATF agents that Malcolm discussed a machine shop he used to alter weapons to be fully automatic, meaning that they would continue to fire rounds by a user holding down the trigger.
“Malcolm told the CI that distributing firearms was only a side business, and that Malcolm’s main business was distributing explosives and poison,” the affidavit states.
Three days later, the informant introduced two undercover agents to Malcolm, who discussed purchasing firearms equipment that could convert Glock pistols to fully automatic weapons, the affidavit states.
During the meeting, Malcolm took the informant to his car and threatened his family if the undercover agents were not who they claimed to be, the affidavit states.
Afterward, two more meetings took place, the later one on March 18 in a parking lot in Placerville. The agents followed Malcolm from there to a remote forested area, where Malcolm produced a Glock and altered it so that it would be fully automatic, the affidavit states.
The undercover agents test-fired the weapon, as well as another Glock, and the agents ended up purchasing devices to convert four handguns for a total of $1,300, the affidavit states.
On April 3 they met again, this time in San Francisco, and purchased six more devices to convert semiautomatic pistols to fully automatic, the affidavit states.
The investigation continued, with the agents meeting Malcolm again on April 16 and handing over $12,000 to purchase four fully automatic short-barrel AR-15 rifles, 1.5 pounds of explosives, three improvised detonation devices, a silencer for a Glock pistol and 140 rounds of ammunition, according to the affidavit.
By then, agents had Malcolm and his home under surveillance, as well as a storage unit near Interstate 80 and Watt Avenue that agents believed he was using as a workshop to manufacture weapons. They also had attached a tracking device to his 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer, according to the affidavit.
The undercover agents spoke with Malcolm on Thursday last week to set up a meeting this week on Wednesday, the affidavit states. Malcolm had agreed to sell them 10 pounds of an improvised C-4 type explosive – a plastic explosive – blasting caps, four remote detonators, four more fully automatic AR-15s and two silencers for a total of $21,000.
As part of their cover story, the agents over time had told Malcolm they supplied weapons to drug traffickers in Mexico and needed explosive devices to guard a marijuana growing operation in Northern California, the affidavit states.
But the meeting for later this week never came off. Instead, agents became concerned Sunday morning when they received a signal that the GPS tracking device on Malcolm’s Trailblazer had been removed, and they immediately sought search warrants for his home, storage unit and vehicle.
“I believe that since Malcolm apparently discovered the tracking device, he may have alerted others that law enforcement may be coming, and evidence may be compromised/destroyed unless immediate search is authorized,” Yun wrote on the last page of the affidavit Sunday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn K. Delaney signed the search warrant application, and Malcolm was arrested at 9:35 p.m., according to another handwritten note in the court documents.