Retired sheriff's deputy charged with selling recovered guns after scrubbing serial numbers

A 65-year-old former Virgina deputy was indicted by a federal grand jury this week for trading or selling more than a dozen guns he officially acquired from law enforcement agencies for the purpose of destroying.

According to court documents, Melvin Hinson, a retired Westmoreland County sheriff’s deputy, frequently defaced weapon serial numbers before passing them on in exchange for cash and car parts. As such, he was charged Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia with possessing firearms with the manufacturers’ serial numbers obliterated or removed.

As detailed in an 8-page complaint filed in April, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives over a one-year period dating back to last March, made contact with Hinson through confidential informants who had obtained guns from the former lawman. These firearms, turned over to the ATF, included a Rohm RG38 revolver, an H&R Model 732 revolver, and a Jimenez 9mm semi-auto, all with their serial numbers removed.

However, agents discovered Virginia Department of Forensic Science lab numbers inscribed under the grips of the Jimenez, as well as other DFS numbers on the top strap of the H&R, which allowed them to track the handguns back to the state crime lab, who confirmed they had been turned over to the lab by agencies that included Hinson’s.

Agents subsequently obtained at least ten more firearms including five shotguns, four rimfire caliber handguns, and a .303-caliber surplus rifle in two additional buys. Six of these ten had their serials removed and Hinson allegedly advised the buyers that the guns came from multiple law enforcement agencies. In at least two of these additional firearms, they were found to have DFS crime lab case numbers inscribed.

Hinson, arrested last month, currently faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted. Assistant U.S. Attorney Olivia L. Norman is prosecuting the case on behalf of the federal government.

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