Gun Thief Sentenced For ‘Smash-And-Grab’ Of More Than A Dozen AR-15 Style Rifles From Local Gun Store | USAO-CO

DENVER – United States Attorney Jason R. Dunn today announced that Justin Vigil, age 31, of Denver, Colorado, was sentenced to serve 39 months (more than 3 years) in federal prison followed by 3 years on supervised release for the theft of firearms from Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply, a federally licensed firearm dealer.  The Denver Field Division of the ATF joined in this announcement. 

According to the stipulated facts contained in Vigil’s plea agreement, he and co-defendant Jonathan Estrada were part of a violent “smash and grab” organization that burglarized federal firearms licensees (FFLs).

On January 18, 2018, Vigil and five others, including Estrada, burglarized Murdoch’s gun store in Littleton.  They entered the store after throwing a rock through a glass window.  They spent 3 minutes in the store, stealing 13 AR-15 style firearms.  That evening, the ATF executed a search warrant at Estrada’s residence.  Agents found evidence, including five firearms that were stolen during the burglary, Murdoch’s sales tags, and a handwritten ledger listing Murdoch’s and other locations to be burglarized.

After Vigil was charged but before pleading guilty in this case, he cut off his GPS ankle monitoring bracelet and absconded. He was at large for several months and missed  his  initial  change of plea  hearing.

Co-defendant Jonathan Estrada, age 21, of Denver, was sentenced on February 27, 2020 to serve 96 months (8 years) in federal prison followed by 3 years on supervised release for carjacking and his role in this and another gun store burglary. 

“Prosecuting gun crimes is a top priority for my office and the Department of Justice,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn.  “The theft of 13 AR-15 style rifles causes a substantial community safety concern because they likely end up in the hands of violent criminals, gangs, and drug trafficking organizations.  As these criminals target gun stores, federal law enforcement and my office will target them with laser focus.”

“FFL burglaries and robberies are one of the top priorities of ATF,” said David Booth, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Denver Field Division.  “We will continue to use every resource available to ensure those responsible are brought to justice and ensure public safety.” 

According to ATF statistics specific to Colorado, in 2019 there were 135 firearms stolen in 9 separate burglaries.  In 2018, there were 64 firearms stolen in 8 separate burglaries.  And in 2017, there were 427 firearms stolen in 28 separate burglaries.  Nationally in 2019 there were 21,535 firearms stolen in 2,576 separate burglaries. 

The sentence was pronounced by U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn.  This case was investigated by the ATF with assistance from the following law enforcement agencies: Arvada Police Department, Aurora Police Department, Denver Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson County Crime Lab, and Lakewood Police Department.  The defendant is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Treaster.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.  Related court documents can be found on PACER by searching for Case Number 18-cr-421.

This case is part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.  For more information about Project Guardian, please see: https://www.justice.gov/projectguardian.            

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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