A former Gardena police officer was sentenced to nearly three years in prison for buying firearms that were not available to the general public and illegally selling them for a profit, Department of Justice officials announced Monday.
The federal district judge who oversaw the case against 44-year-old Carlos Miguel Fernandez called the defendant’s actions “egregious” and “shocking,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Fernandez, of Norwalk, was convicted last November of conspiracy to engage in the business of dealing firearms without a license and of substantive counts of engaging in an unlicensed firearms business. He was also found guilty of another conspiracy count, selling firearms to a convicted felon and making false statements about the sales on federal firearms licensing paperwork.
Fernandez was fired by the Gardena Police Department after he was convicted.
The defendant advertised firearms for sale on his and others’ behalf, and negotiated prices and terms of firearm sales on Instagram and through private messages on the social media platform. He also marketed firearms at gun shows though he was not licensed to sell guns.
Officials said Fernandez used his position as a police officer to “ensure the success of his illegal gun selling business,” according to the news release. He purchased handguns that were not available to the general public, but that he had access to as a law enforcement officer — mostly Colt .38-caliber handguns.
He sold dozens of weapons through private party transfers and accepted payment for the guns once the firearms were delivered, officials said.
Fernandez negotiated the sale of 10 firearms to convicted felon Oscar Maravilla Camacho Jr., 36, of Salinas, between May 2016 and December 2017, officials said. In each of the transactions, Fernandez communicated with Camacho about the purchases and understood that Camacho could not legally buy the weapons as a convicted felon.
“Nevertheless, Fernandez transferred the weapons to Camacho Jr. in violation of federal law,” the news release states. “(Fernandez) ignored the dangerous nature of his conduct, in flagrant disregard of his duties and oath as a law enforcement officer, and did so because he was motivated to make money,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Camacho is serving a six-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy and cocaine distribution charges last November.
Six other defendants in the case pleaded guilty to federal charges for distribution of cocaine, conspiracy to dispose of firearms to a felon and making false statements that led to the purchase of several firearms, officials said.
The judge in the case ordered a new trial for Edward Yasushiro Arao, a Fernandez co-defendant and fellow police Gardena police officer.
Arao, 49, of Eastvale was found guilty by the same jury that convicted Fernandez, but the judge ruled that his previous decision to try the two defendants together was erroneous. A new trial date for Arao will be discussed at a March 18 status conference, officials said.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, while the Gardena police cooperated fully with the investigation.