Feds bust unlicensed ‘ghost gun,’ silencer operation

Ghost-guns

Some of the guns seized in undercover operation are displayed at a news conference in Sacramento on Oct. 15 when authorities announced the indictment of eight men on a variety of firearm charges including the manufacturing and dealing in firearms without a license. (Photo: AP/Rich Pedroncelli)

Hailed as one of the biggest takedowns in the Sacramento area, federal agents seized 238 firearms and silencers, many of which were unserialized, from eight men charged Thursday on 70 counts of various gun offenses.

The indictment was the result of an eight-month undercover operation by agents with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. Men arrested include:

  • Joseph Latu, 29, of Elk Grove, is charged with conspiracy to deal firearms without a license, dealing firearms without a license, conspiracy to manufacture and deal firearms without a license, possession of an unregistered short-barreled rifle, possession of an unregistered silencer, possession of an unserialized firearm.
  • Algernon Tamasoa, 27, of Sacramento, is charged with conspiracy to deal firearms without a license, dealing firearms without a license, possession of an unserialized firearm, and distribution of MDMA.
  • John Ortiz, 43, of Vallejo, and Keith White, 40, of Vallejo, are charged with conspiracy to deal firearms without a license, dealing firearms without a license, and possession of an unserialized firearm.
  • Charles Tucker, 29, of Stockton, and Ionel Pascan, 28, of Riverbank, are charged with dealing firearms without a license, conspiracy to manufacture and deal firearms without a license, possession of an unregistered short-barreled rifle, possession of an unregistered silencer, and possession of an unserialized firearm.
  • Daniel Bennett, 39, of Stockton, and David Bennett, 27, of Stockton, are charged with conspiracy to manufacture and deal firearms without a license.

According to court documents, the men sold 67 firearms and 38 silencers to undercover agents on 24 separate occasions between Feb. 6 and Sept. 28. An additional 71 firearms and 62 silencer were recovered during the arrests.

Many of the firearms were manufactured from unfinished lower receivers, commonly known as “80 percent” lower receivers or “ghost guns,” and did not have a serial number or other identification markings. Also, none of the silencers were serialized either, which is required under the law.

Further, many of the firearms were short-barreled rifles, which must be registered under the National Firearms Registration. None of the short-barreled rifles sold to the undercover agent were registered to any of the defendants.

If convicted, each man faces up to five and 10 years per count and up to a $250,000 fine per count.