SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Two Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies have been indicted on charges they illegally sold dozens of weapons, some of which reportedly fell into the hands of criminals.
Also named in this indictment was Robert Snellings, the owner of a Sacramento gun shop. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he was part of a money-making, gun-selling scheme that involved the deputies.
Deputy Ryan McGowan, 31, of Elk Grove pled not guilty Friday afternoon to what the U.S. attorney calls a “fireaerm straw-buying scheme.”
Investigators said at least two weapons eventually reached criminals, though there is no evidence the deputies had that intent.
“My lawyer told me not to say anything,” was all McGowan would say as he left the federal courthouse in downtown Sacramento.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner says Deputy McGowan and former deputy Thomas Lu, 42, also of Elk Grove, bought and then resold the guns to Snellings for profit.
“Law officers used their official status as peace officers to purchase guns that are not available to the public,” Wagner said.
But McGowan’s attorney calls his client a “gun hobbyist.”
“He didn’t make any profit on this,” attorney Bill Portanova said.
However, the U.S. government says that since 2009, the deputies sold nearly 50 guns to Snellings, who then sold them to the public.
Snellings, 61, of Rancho Murieta and a fourth man, gun buyer Ulysses Simpson Grant Early IV, 36, of Sacramento, are also facing federal charges.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones had already placed both deputies on paid administrative leave when the investigation began in November. Lu resigned three weeks ago. Jones is asking the same of McGowan.
“It’s disheartening that these two officers took it upon themselves, not only to make a decision to abuse their positions as peace officers, but to cast aspersions on the entire department,” Jones said.
Now, Snellings, Lu and McGowan all face long prison sentences if convicted.
McGowan’s attorney, though, says his client doesn’t plan to resign.
“He wants his dream back,” Portanova said. “He wants to be a policeman.”
McGowan also faces state charges for possessing illegal gun magazines and steroids.
Two other police officers, one in Sacramento and the other in nearby Roseville, were implicated in the investigation but have not been charged. Both have since lost their jobs.