SALT LAKE CITY – Three individuals are charged with travel within the United States with intent to deal firearms without a license in a complaint unsealed Thursday. The charges allege the defendants were involved in purchasing or attempting to purchase 27 firearms in Utah between Aug. 1, 2020, and Nov. 4, 2020.
Charged in the complaint are Erick Lopez, age 20, Christopher Lopez, 22, and Bryan Rodriguez, 21, all of California.
According to the complaint, an ATF special agent was contacted by a federal firearms licensee (FFL) regarding the suspicious attempted purchase of five pistols on Aug. 2, 2020, by a person referred to as Person A in the charging document. Person A was observed with two Hispanic males in a rental car with California plates. Ultimately, the FFL canceled the purchase and the sale was not completed.
Between Aug. 1 and Aug. 27, 2020, Person A made three separate purchases for a total of 12 pistols from three different FFLs. According to the complaint, the Person A paid cash for all of the purchases.
In late October, ATF learned that one of the firearms, a Glock pistol, had been recovered during a traffic stop in Arizona involving a convicted felon.
Investigators linked the rental car used during the attempted firearms purchase on Aug. 2, 2020, to an individual. Further investigation revealed Christopher and Erick Lopez were associated with the individual.
On Nov. 4, 2020, ATF agents learned Person A was attempting to purchase 10 Glock pistols from an FFL. The agent observed the individual fill out the paperwork to buy the weapons and provide cash for the firearms. However, the firearms were not transferred to Person A at that time, according to the complaint. Person A left the store and got into a car with a California license plate parked in a nearby alley. The vehicle left at that point.
Later that evening, the ATF investigator spoke with Person A. Person A admitted he/she had purchased or attempted to purchase 27 firearms in Utah since Aug. 1, 2020. The complaint alleges Person A indicated that all of the firearms were purchased for three males, who lived in California and were unable to legally purchase firearms in Utah. According to the complaint, prior to each transaction, the three males provided instructions to Person A as to the quantity and type of firearms to purchase and provided the individual with cash for each transaction.
Person A identified Erick and Christopher Lopez as two of the three males. Rodriquez was later identified by law enforcement officers. The three are believed to be related to each other.
Law enforcement officers located the three defendants. None of the defendants possessed a valid federal firearms license to deal, transport, or ship firearms. A federal arrest warrant was issued for their arrest.
Initial appearances for the three were held Thursday. Detention hearings were set for Dec. 4, 2020, for Bryan Rodriquez and Christopher Lopez. U.S. District Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead found Erick Lopez to be an unmanageable risk for non appearance and a risk of danger to the community. He will remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshals pending resolution of the case.
The potential maximum penalty for the charge in the complaint is 10 years, a fine of $250,000, and three years of supervised release following the completion of the sentence.
Complaints are not findings of guilt. Individuals charged in a complaint are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.