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Deputies sold weapons that ended up with criminals, prosecutors say

June 1, 2012 | 11:31 am

Two Sacramento County sheriff's deputies were charged Friday by federal prosecutors with illegally selling dozens of weapons, some of which allegedly fell into the hands of criminals.

Deputies Ryan McGowan, 31, and Thomas Lu, 42, both of Elk Grove, face charges of trafficking in handguns that cannot be legally purchased in California, Fox40 in Sacramento reported.

Also charged were firearms dealer Robert Snellings, 61, of Rancho Murieta and Ulysses Simpson Grant Early IV, 36, who is accused of buying guns. Both are from Sacramento.

U.S. Atty. Benjamin Wagoner said the deputies were charged with serving as straw buyers by purchasing the restricted handguns, which peace officers are permitted to buy. They then sold the guns at a profit to unqualified buyers through licensed dealers, prosecutors said.

Gun buyers in California can only buy firearms off an “approved roster,” according to state law. However, peace officers are allowed to purchase certain weapons known as “off-roster” firearms, which are usually high-capacity.

Members of law enforcement can privately sell these “off-roster” guns, as long as the sale is approved by a federal firearms licensee. It’s illegal if their goal is to make money off the sale of these guns through continuous purchase and sale.

The deputies are accused of using their peace officer exemption to buy dozens of weapons over more than a year then selling them to others for a profit.

Investigators said at least two weapons eventually reached criminals, though there is no evidence the deputies had that intent, the Associated Press reported.

Two other police officers, one in Sacramento and the other in nearby Roseville, were implicated in the investigation but have not been charged. Both have since lost their jobs.

The two deputies worked at the department's Rio Consumes Correction Center in Elk Grove. One deputy resigned and the other is on administrative leave, said Deputy Jason Ramos, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.

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-- From a Times staff writer

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