Ex-Gardena police officer found guilty of illegal gun dealing

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A former Gardena police officer was found guilty of buying firearms not available to the general public and illegally reselling them for profit, Department of Justice officials announced Friday.

A federal jury on Thursday convicted 51-year-old Edward Yasushiro Arao of Eastvale of conspiracy to engage in the business of dealing firearms without a license and a substantive count of engaging in an unlicensed firearms business, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

The verdict came at the conclusion of a second trial prompted by an earlier conviction being overturned.

According to evidence presented during a four-day trial, Arao and his co-conspirator, former Gardena police officer Carlos Fernandez, 46, of Norwalk, exploited their positions as police officers to operate an illegal gun-selling business, the DOJ said.

Arao purchased “off-roster” firearms, all of which were Colt .38 Super-caliber handguns that were not available to the general public, but which could be legally purchased by law enforcement officers – through Ronin Tactical Group, a federal firearms licensee that Arao owned and operated. 

Arao then transferred the guns to himself individually from the inventory of Ronin Tactical Group and re-sold 41 of these weapons to non-law enforcement officers, according to the DOJ.

Similarly, Fernandez obtained multiple “off-roster” weapons, which he re-sold to the general public through Ronin Tactical Group.

Through messages on Instagram along with other means, Arao and Fernandez negotiated the prices and terms of firearm sales, and then delivered the guns and accepted payment, often in cash.

In a previous trial in November 2019, a federal jury found Arao guilty of the same two felony charges and found Fernandez guilty of conspiracy, selling firearms to a convicted felon, engaging in an unlicensed firearms business, and making false statements in federal firearms licensing paperwork.

In March 2020, Fernandez was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison. At the same time, the judge ordered a new trial for Arao after determining the two defendants should not have been tried together.

Arao is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 21, 2022, when he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Six other defendants who illegally purchased firearms from Arao and Fernandez pleaded guilty in the case and were sentenced, two of them being ordered to serve time in federal prison.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the case and the Gardena Police Department provided its full cooperation during the investigation, officials said.

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