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(MO) Stings at gun shows net 9

Discussion in 'Legal' started by clange, Oct 1, 2003.

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  1. clange

    clange Member

    Dec 27, 2002
    Dunno if this has been posted but the ATF has been going after gun shows around here lately..

    Gun show sales draw scrutiny of ATF
    By Peter Shinkle

    When gun fanciers gather for shows like the one this weekend at the VFW Hall in Overland, undercover federal agents may be there too, patrolling the fuzzy line that decides which buyers must get background checks.

    Scrutiny of gun shows in the St. Louis area laid the foundation for raids, quietly conducted in April, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives seized 572 guns from the homes of five show participants, according to court documents.

    At least one criminal prosecution has resulted, in federal court in East St. Louis.

    And more recently, the U.S. attorney's office filed civil suits in U.S. District Court in St. Louis seeking forfeiture of the guns, claiming their owners improperly sold weapons.

    The surface issue is whether gun show participants are abusing their status as "collectors," who by law may sell without the federal firearms license required of "dealers."

    But the underlying issue is about buyers, who can avoid criminal background checks by purchasing from "collectors," often at gun shows.

    A lawyer for one of the men named in the civil cases says he expects his client to be indicted on criminal charges soon.

    "ATF has been going to gun shows, following people around and trying to set them up," said the lawyer, James Martin. "I think they're trying to crack down on gun shows.

    "I know my client is going to be indicted," he said. "We understand there's a grand jury that's been meeting."

    Martin said his client, Caesar J. Gaglio, has no gun dealer's license but doesn't need one for the few weapons he sells. "He's essentially a collector," Martin said.

    Ray Gruender, the U.S. attorney in St. Louis, declined to comment on the forfeiture cases or possible criminal prosecutions.

    Jeff Fulton, assistant special agent in charge of the ATF office here, dismissed the notion that his agency is cracking down on shows.

    "I don't think it would be correct to say there is a crackdown," he said. "As we get information, we certainly take that information and work it aggressively."

    He said the agency does not have figures on the number of weapons seized from show participants, as distinguished from weapons taken in other investigations.

    "Crime guns do originate at gun shows," Fulton said. "That's been documented."

    Indeed, the ATF says gun shows are a significant source of illegally sold firearms. Gun shows rank second, after corrupt firearms distributors, in the number of illegally trafficked guns that turn up on average in ATF investigations, the agency said in a report in 2000.

    From July 1996 through December 1998, ATF began 1,530 investigations into illegal firearms trafficking, the report said. The investigations targeting gun shows were "associated with" about 26,000 illegally sold weapons, the report said.

    Gun show controversy

    On Saturday, people pored over tables of guns at the show at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3944 in Overland, where participants expressed varying views of the ATF investigation here.

    Stan Tiefenbrun, president of the St. Louis Antique Arms Association, which hosts regular shows at the VFW post, said the group has participants sign forms agreeing to obey the law.

    "We ask that all dealers abide by the laws, federal, state and local," he said.

    The federal suits say that undercover ATF agents made purchases of guns from unlicensed dealers at the VFW post in February and March. Tiefenbrun said it is difficult for gun show organizers to detect people who may lie on their forms.

    Gun show participants are well aware of the recent ATF investigation, he said. "Word got out like a brush fire," he said. On Saturday, virtually every gun seller at the VFW post was licensed, he said.

    One licensed dealer at the show, who asked not to be identified, said he supports the ATF investigation of illegal dealers. "Why should I pay the taxes and license fees when they can get out here and sell anything?" he said.

    But Norman Ismari, who has sold guns from his home for more than 15 years, said the ATF probe is a "touchy" issue for gun sellers.

    "There was no ATF back when the country got its freedom," he said, stepping from behind his racks of rifles and cases of pistols. He wore a hat that read, "NRA Patriot," referring to the National Rifle Association.

    And even though he is a licensed dealer, he said ATF's licensing requirements are an imposition on citizens' liberties. "I see it as the ability of an individual to sell what he owns," he said.

    And whether an individual really needs a license is not always clear, he said. "That's going to be a judgment call - whether they're in the business or are just trying to earn some extra money," he said.

    Exemption for collectors, hobbyists

    Federal law generally defines a person who sells guns for livelihood or profit as a dealer, who must have a license. It specifically exempts people who make "occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby."

    Licensees must perform criminal background checks on customers and require each buyer to sign a form confirming he is eligible to buy a gun, does not have a felony conviction and is not obtaining the gun for someone else.

    Collectors who sell guns as a hobby are exempt from those rules, and the precise distinction between collecting and dealing has been open to debate.

    In the gun trade, transactions without background checks have a name. They're called "off paper." And some gun shows offer a wide selection of merchandise for "off paper" purchase.

    Advocates of tighter regulation denounce what they call the "gun show loophole" and want legislation to close it. Some of them say gun shows have been found in the past to supply criminals and even terrorists.

    California passed a law allowing cities to ban gun shows on public property, and San Francisco has adopted such a ban.

    Meanwhile, gun groups have bitterly resisted extending regulations to gun show participants, saying the effect would shut down the shows altogether.

    The debate was prompted in part by the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999. The two gunmen, who were students, had an 18-year-old friend buy weapons for them - without a background check - at a gun show.

    Later that year, a law to require background checks on all sales at gun shows was passed by the U.S. Senate but died amid strong opposition from gun enthusiasts, including the National Rifle Association.

    This year, a similar bill is expected to be introduced in Congress.

    Kelly Hobbs, a spokeswoman for the NRA, said the FBI's current system for background checks, the National Instant Background Check System, is too slow. The NRA would not oppose truly "instant" checks, she said, but the current system takes too long, in some cases up to three days.

    "Gun shows are over a weekend, and then they're gone," Hobbs said. "A three-day wait would block the purpose of gun shows and essentially put gun shows out of business."

    Matt Bennett, of the Americans for Gun Safety Foundation, said the gun check system is improving, and is now "so good that it is virtually perfect in terms of speed, and almost no one has to wait."

    He said 95 percent of the checks are done within minutes, at most within two hours. The ones that take longer are usually because the buyer has an arrest record that must be checked further for convictions, Bennett said.

    "The odds that a law-abiding gun buyer will be inconvenienced by this are virtually zero," he insisted.

    ATF moves in

    In the summer of 2002, the ATF began investigating a group of men selling firearms in gun shows at places such as the Machinists' Union Hall in Bridgeton, the Stratford Inn in Fenton and the Heart of St. Charles Banquet Center in St. Charles.

    Several of them also traveled to buy or sell guns at a show in Tulsa, Okla., according to the court cases.

    Documents detail the undercover purchases of more than 50 weapons from show participants, describing how agents sought to arrange "off paper" sales.

    On Oct. 27, 2002, undercover ATF agents purchased four guns from Gaglio, 69, at the Stratford Inn show. The following January, agents bought one gun from him at the Machinists' Hall, and a month later two more guns at the VFW Hall in Overland, according to the suits.

    Later, at a show in February at the Wentzville Expo Center, agents observed Gaglio at a table with about 10 handguns and six long guns for sale, the suit says. And a day later, when an agent went to Gaglio's home to buy three guns, he observed 40 handgun cases and 30 long guns in a porch area, the suit claims.

    In all, the agents said, they bought 11 guns from Gaglio.

    In April, an undercover agent met Gaglio in his hotel room in Tulsa, where Gaglio had gone to the gun show. Gaglio said he had spent $4,000 and bought 11 guns at the show, and he agreed to sell two of them later to the agent, the suit says. But his home was raided three days later.

    When agents searched his home in St. Louis on April 9, they seized 229 weapons, the suit says.

    Martin, Gaglio's lawyer, said in an interview that his client is not in the gun business.

    "He has a large personal collection of his own, and he has been retired," Martin said. "He has sufficient income from his pension and investments to support himself. He's got a personal interest in it, as opposed to trying to make a livelihood in it."

    Elmer Pigg of Kirkwood had about 80 guns for sale at a show at the Machinists' Union Hall in January, one of the forfeiture suits says.

    Pigg, who has no license to sell firearms, also traveled to a gun show in Tulsa, and he told undercover agents that he and his son had set up five tables of guns at a show in Louisville, Ky., the suit says.

    The agents arranged to buy three guns from Pigg at his home in August 2002, and five more guns at a gun show at the Machinists' Union Hall last September, the suit says.

    In the raids April 9, agents seized 138 guns and $18,770 from Pigg's home in Kirkwood, court documents show. Officials claim the cash was derived from illicit gun sales.

    Pigg and his wife, Jean Pigg, have filed claims for the return of the guns and cash.

    Reached at home, Jean Pigg disputed the claim that her husband sold firearms improperly. "I don't think that's true," she said, declining to comment further. Elmer Pigg could not be reached.

    More guns are bought

    As part of the investigation, the agents also bought more than 30 guns from Richard F. Beck at gun shows over an eight-month period ended in April, according to another forfeiture suit. Agents seized 40 guns from his home in Crestwood on April 9, the suit says. Beck declined to comment.

    Undercover agents bought six weapons at gun shows from another man, Charles Dains, who invited one undercover agent to accompany him to buy more guns at a show in Tulsa, one of the suits says.

    At the show, in April, Dains said he had two British machine guns that "nobody could know about," and said he could trade a $500 gun for a half-pound of marijuana, the suit says. The raid April 9 at his house in Jennings seized at least 47 guns along with suspected marijuana and drug paraphernalia, it says.

    Dains could not be reached for comment.

    One man named in the investigation, Hubert May, does have a federal firearms license and sells guns from his St. Louis County home under the business name "Hugh's Gun Room," according to the forfeiture suit naming him.

    But in January 2002, May sold an undercover agent a .38-caliber revolver at a gun show in Belleville without requiring any documents, the suit says.

    Six months later, May's wife, Karlyn May, sold a confidential informer a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol at a gun show in Collinsville, the suit says. Again, no paperwork was required, it says.

    In the raid April 9, agents seized 118 guns and Hubert May's business records, the suit says. In July, Hubert and Karlyn May were indicted in federal court in East St. Louis on criminal charges of selling weapons without keeping the required records. They have pleaded not guilty.

    William Margulis, the attorney for Hubert May, said his client is also a collector and that many of the guns seized were antiques. "The government has no legal basis to keep those," he said.

    Reporter Peter Shinkle
    E-mail: pshinkle@post-dispatch.com

    Nine area men are indicted after inquiry into gun shows
    By Peter Shinkle

    Eight St. Louis-area men sold firearms without licenses at gun shows - and another failed to keep required records of sales - according to federal indictments unsealed here Tuesday.

    The indictments were a clear next step in an investigation of whether people who should have gun dealer licenses have avoided doing background checks of buyers by claiming an exemption offered to hobbyists.

    Five of the defendants had been mentioned in civil lawsuits seeking to take possession of 572 firearms seized in raids at those men's homes in April by Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives agents.

    The indictments in U.S. District Court provide few details about the alleged crimes, simply stating that the defendants broke laws on licensing and record-keeping.

    U.S. Attorney Ray Gruender said he could not comment, except to note that the men are not accused of working together. "The indictments do not charge a conspiracy," he said.

    The civil suits alleged that gun show participants, who were not licensed as dealers, sold dozens of weapons to undercover agents, traveled to gun shows in other states to buy weapons, and offered weapons for sale at gun shows from summer last year through March.

    One of the defendants in Tuesday's charges, Joseph Vaughn, declined to comment when contacted at his home. The others could not be reached.

    Federal officials have said that gun shows are a significant source of illegally sold firearms.

    Under federal law, a person who sells firearms as a business or for a livelihood must be licensed and perform criminal background checks on buyers. Collectors and hobbyists are not included.

    A lawyer for one of the indicted men said last week that his client did not need a license because he was "essentially a collector."

    Gun control advocates have attacked the exemption as a dangerous loophole that can benefit criminals and even terrorists.

    Stan Tiefenbrun, president of the St. Louis Antique Arms Association and an organizer of two of the shows mentioned in the civil lawsuits, said he is not worried that the indictments will hurt shows.

    "I don't see it at all as having an adverse impact," Tiefenbrun said. "I see it forcing people to clean up their act.

    "If anyone comes to a show and poses as a dealer, they're going to have to be legal," he said.

    Tiefenbrun said his group requires all exhibitors to agree to abide by all federal, state and local laws.

    Three of the defendants made initial appearances in federal court on Tuesday and were released on $10,000 bond each. They were Elmer Pigg, 79, of Kirkwood; his son Michael Pigg, 56, of Pacific; and Larry Caruso, 62, of Hermann, Mo.

    The other defendants are expected to appear voluntarily in court today and Thursday. They are: Richard Beck, 74, of Crestwood; Charles Dains, 45, of Jennings; Vaughn, 59, of St. Louis; William Rogers, 53, of Florissant; Harold "Beaver" Kliever, 64, of St. Charles; and Caesar Gaglio, 69, of St. Louis.

    Caruso is accused of being a licensed gun dealer who failed to "properly maintain any records" required by law. That crime is a misdemeanor, and if convicted Caruso could face a maximum prison sentence of one year and a fine of up to $100,000, according to prosecutors.

    All of the others are accused of selling firearms without a license, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

    In addition, the indictments seek to force the defendants to forfeit all guns and ammunition involved in the crimes.

    Reporter Peter Shinkle:
    E-mail: pshinkle@post-dispatch.com
  2. Henry Bowman

    Henry Bowman Senior Member

    Dec 30, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Excuse me while I step out for a moment. The hogs are squeelin' to be fed!
  3. El Tejon

    El Tejon Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Lafayette, Indiana-the Ned Flanders neighbor to Il
    Your tax clerks at work.:rolleyes:
  4. Preacherman

    Preacherman Member

    Dec 20, 2002
    Louisiana, USA
    Quite frankly, I don't have a beef with the investigation into the individuals mentioned in this article. I can happily accept someone selling (say) teh to twenty guns a year out of their collection, and buying the same number, privately (i.e. off-paper). When it comes to hundreds of guns a year, and they're maintaining stocks, business records, etc. - well, come on, folks, that is PRECISELY what an FFL is supposed to license one to do! These incidents look like lawful siezures to me...
  5. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

    Dec 24, 2002
    Idahohoho, the jolliest state
    Too bad this degree of time and effort isn't being put into tracking down and deporting illegal aliens and Islamic terrorist savages.
  6. Cellar Dweller

    Cellar Dweller Member

    May 15, 2003
    Apparently not far enough outside Emperor Daley's
    Naw, a FFL is to ensure the government gets its fair share of the profits. :neener: Increasing paperwork and NICS was added later...
    Funny how beef jerky and beanie baby sellers are "hobbyists" that don't require a license...

    Not needed if it was a personal firearm.

    Can they prove it? Do they HAVE to prove it? "no your Honor, it was cash earmarked for drugs and terrorism so you have to release it..." :neener:

    Once again, the only real reason FFLs exist. :cuss:
  7. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    But... but... I thought the BATF was part of John "Friend of Gun Owners" Ashcroft's Justice Department now! How can this be?!?
  8. El Tejon

    El Tejon Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Lafayette, Indiana-the Ned Flanders neighbor to Il
    Cellar, they only have to prove it by a preponderance of the evidence and they get to keep the cash, unless it is already "missing." F-Troop is well-known for grabbing cash without charges and keeping it, one way or another.:rolleyes:
  9. BamBam

    BamBam Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Memphis, TN
    My translation:
    " The ATF doesn't use the word "crackdown" unless we actually get to kill families. Saw a shotgun barrel down to 17-3/4" ....... then you'll see a crackdown".
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