FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment today against Ralph Zavala, 39, of Woodlake, charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, on Sept. 1, Zavala was arrested as part of a law enforcement effort to apprehend parolees who have absconded from parole supervision. Officers observed Zavala in a vehicle, and as they moved in to apprehend him, Zavala drove into an agent’s vehicle. Zavala was eventually arrested and found to be in possession of a loaded Cobra Denali semi-automatic .380 ACP pistol. Zavala has several felony convictions in Tulare County and is prohibited from possessing either a firearm or ammunition.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Woodlake Police Department, and the Visalia Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Jean Berger is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Zavala faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime. To learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods, go to www.justice.gov/psn.
The case is also 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 www.justice.gov/projectguardian.