Caught illegally selling firearms that are not available to the general public, two Gardena police officers were indicted on five felony counts, including conspiring to deal in firearms without a license and selling a firearm to at least one convicted felon. Advertising the weapons on Instagram, the officers sold more than 100 guns that are only available to law enforcement officers.
From 2015 to September 2017, Detective Carlos Fernandez and Officer Edward Arao purchased “off-roster” firearms not available to the general public and illegally operated businesses that resold the weapons, according to their five-count indictment. As the CEO of Ronin Tactical Group, Arao used the company’s Instagram account to advertise the guns, including mostly Colt .38-caliber handguns, while Fernandez advertised guns for sale on his Instagram account “the38superman.”
Not licensed individually to engage in the business of dealing in firearms at the time, Det. Fernandez and Officer Arao negotiated the prices and terms of firearm sales on Instagram while accepting payments for the guns once they were delivered. Besides illegally selling the guns online, both California cops also allegedly unlawfully marketed at gun shows.
In 2017, Fernandez illegally sold a gun to Oscar Morales Camacho Sr. of Salinas, who intended to give the firearm to his son, Oscar Maravilla Camacho Jr., who has a prior criminal conviction that prohibits him from possessing firearms. According to the indictment, Fernandez and both Camachos “well knew [that] defendant Camacho Sr. was not the actual buyer of the firearm.”
During another “straw purchaser” transaction, a South Los Angeles woman allegedly purchased two firearms for her boyfriend. Bianca Ibarria and Adalberto deJesus Vasquez Pelayo Jr. were charged with making a false statement in a federal firearm licensee’s records during purchase of a firearm and have been directed to appear in federal court for arraignments on April 3.
“We are deeply concerned about the case,” said Gardena Police Chief Ed Medrano. “This type of conduct is inconsistent with our organizational values and the ethics of our profession and will not be tolerated by the Gardena Police Department.”
Medrano added, “We are cooperating fully with the ATF.”
Both officers have been placed on administrative leave. They have been scheduled to appear in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on April 3.
Each count in the indictment carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. If convicted of all charges, Fernandez would face up to 15 years in federal prison, and Arao could be sentenced to as much as 10 years.
The ATF previously issued a memorandum to Southern California police chiefs warning that sales of illegal firearms have become an “emerging problem” for officers.