70 Agent IN Gun Store Raid Another ATF Sting Operation

[HTML1]

As TTAG has pointed out a few times (but then again not so few as not to mention), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) relies heavily on “sting” operations. As anyone with a basic understanding of the law will tell you, a “sting” is another word for legalized entrapment. The ATF’s recent 70-agent raid on a Parker City, Indiana gun store is yet another example (amongst dozens) where the Agency substituted play acting for criminal investigation. [Make the jump for the press release.] And, as one of our commentators pointed out, the ATF has a history of swamping a bust with agents to fund travel to a retirement party. I wonder if Senator Grassley’s office would like to make a couple of calls . . .

INDIANAPOLIS – Joseph H. Hogsett, United States Attorney, announced today that Charles F. Ludington, 61, Parker City, Ind., was charged with violating numerous federal firearms laws following a thorough three month investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

According to the allegations in the criminal complaint, Charles F. Fred Ludington (Ludington) is the sole owner of Ludco Gun Shop, a federally licensed firearms dealer located in Parker City. Between August and November of 2010, Ludington’s firearms dealership underwent a routine, periodic audit conducted by agents of the ATF. During the course of that audit, ATF Inspectors discovered that Ludington had acquired but could not account for 997 firearms that were recorded in his inventory. Ninety-three (93) firearms were located in the physical inventory that had not been logged into the A & D record. In twenty-five (25) instances, a firearm was found in physical inventory but the A & D books reflected the firearm has been sold. Additionally, inspectors uncovered documents suggesting that, on at least seven (7) occasions, Ludco sold firearms to persons who were prohibited by federal law from possessing them. Ludington was also cited with selling a handgun to an out of state resident in violation of federal law, and numerous other regulatory and record keeping violations. At the conclusion of the audit, the inspectors issued Ludington a warning not to engage in such unlawful conduct in the future.

As a result of this audit, an investigation was initiated in January of 2011. On five (5) separate occasions between January and March 2011, undercover Indiana State Police detectives, ATF agents, and a confidential informant went to Ludco posing as customers. On each of those occasions, Ludington sold firearms despite the fact that someone other than the actual purchaser of the firearms was filling out the mandatory paperwork. This practice is commonly referred to as a straw purchase. In three (3) of those instances, an informant (who is also a convicted felon) informed Ludington that he wanted to purchase a firearm. Ludington knew the purchaser was a convicted felon, yet sold the firearm anyway. Ludington assisted an undercover ATF agent, acting as a straw purchaser, in filling out the required paperwork for the firearms the convicted felon wanted to buy. Ludington allowed the felon to purchase two 9mm pistols, two 7.62x39mm assault rifles, a 9mm assault rifle, and a .45 caliber revolver capable of firing a 410 shotgun shell. While the undercover ATF agent was filling out the required paperwork, Ludington asked the convicted felon whether he needed any ammunition. The convicted felon handed Ludington the money to complete the purchase of the firearms.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Rinka, who is prosecuting the case for the government, ATF and ISP also executed search warrants today at Ludco Gun Shop, Ludington’s residence, and at a storage facility owned by Ludington, seizing the more than 3,000 firearms in Ludington’s inventory and as well as records related to Ludco’s business operation. The government is seeking forfeiture of all the firearms on grounds that Ludington’s business is permeated with an active scheme to defraud federal regulators and violate federal law, and that proceeds of unlawful firearms sales were used to maintain Ludco’s extensive inventory of firearms.

If convicted of the charges, Ludington faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. An initial hearing will be scheduled for a later date in Indianapolis before a U.S. Magistrate Judge.

A criminal complaint is only an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

avatar

About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

18 Responses to 70 Agent IN Gun Store Raid Another ATF Sting Operation

  1. avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

    Following the raid, agents were spotted selling the firearms to Mexicans outside of Home Depot…

  2. avatarJustSomeGuy says:

    “The government is seeking forfeiture of all the firearms on grounds that Ludington’s business is permeated with an active scheme to defraud federal regulators and violate federal law, and that proceeds of unlawful firearms sales were used to maintain Ludco’s extensive inventory of firearms.”

    “A criminal complaint is only an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    I find those two paragraphs incompatible. As seems to be the norm in asset forfeiture cases, the government is going to take all of his property in advance of trial, because, well, he’s guilty. Yeah, yeah, allegation not evidence, but, well…he’s guilty so we get to keep his stuff!

    I find that chilling, and the notion that the government has any right to the property of an individual in the absence of trial abhorrent.

    Thanks,
    JSG

  3. avatarMALTHUS says:

    “Ludington’s business is permeated with an active scheme to defraud federal regulators…”

    If the fedgov is intent on prosecuting fraud, why haven’t administrators from the Social Security Administration been arrested for promoting a Ponzi scheme? ;^)

  4. avatarRalph says:

    BATFE meant to say “a defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial before we hang him.”

  5. avatarRalph says:

    Is that little blue building in the foreground the new BATFE regional office, or portable a shithouse? Or am I being repetitive?

  6. avatarBuuurr says:

    I wonder if Mossburg will sue FOX for not blurring their name on the boxes and the bad pr?

  7. avatarIke says:

    Remember the ATF motto, “Always Think Forfeiture”…..

    George Iknadosian (X-Caliber Guns – Phoenix) is still fighting to recover his assets, which were seized at the time of his arrest and which he says are worth an estimated $2.2 million. He has sued the government for wrongful and malicious prosecution and for refusing to return his assets despite state court decisions ordering the government to return his property.”

  8. avatarMagoo says:

    RF says: “As anyone with a basic understanding of the law will tell you, a “sting” is another word for legalized entrapment.”

    Yeah. This poor guy was entrapped on five separate occasions. That is so not fair.

    • avatarJustSomeGuy says:

      Regardless of the man’s guilt or innocence (as yet untried), he is entitled to the basic protections of the law. I grant that sting operations are (nominally) legal, but RF’s point remains, and whether or not the man is ultimately found guilty will not change the color of the activity.

      • Why is it you guys are so into the innocent-until-proven-guilty thing when it’s a crooked gun dealer but shooting an burglar is OK regardless of anything?

        The accusations against this guy are very serious. I thought you guys opposed that kind of criminal activity. The focus of the story should be the nearly 1000 weapons unaccounted for not how many ATF agents went on the raid.

        When not one single commenter mentions the problem of crooked gun dealers feeding criminals with weapons, and all you can do is make jokes and attack the evil ATF, you’re bias is showing and you lose credibility in some of your other more-or-less reasonable arguments.

        • avatarJustSomeGuy says:

          I’m into the innocent-until-proven-guilty thing (as you quaintly label it) for everyone. This is a fundamental principle of law put in place to restrict the actions of the government. A citizen faced with a deadly force encounter is not the state, does not have the disparate force and resources of the state with her and must take the needed actions to preserve her own life and liberty. And then answer to the legal restrictions we place on ourselves to protect the innocent. So there is no regardless of anything, here.

          The accusations are very serious, and so the government should be held to the highest standard in proving them beyond a reasonable doubt in court. Until they do, this man is INNOCENT. Under investigation, but innocent. Any other conclusion undermines the basic protections and nature of our society.

          For me, the focus should always be skepticism of the actions of the government. Not out of an assumption of corruption or evil, but because the burden of proof rests with the state, not the accused. Given the actions of the ATF recently this skepticism needs to be of the highest order, the assumption of corruption and evil comes in to play when an agency has demonstrated those traits previously.

          I don’t mention crooked gun dealers because this was an article about the actions of the ATF. It presented a press release from the government. As a citizen it is now incumbent upon me to exercise the greatest skepticism in analyzing the behavior of the ATF and the rest of government. The existence of criminal behavior in society is not a defense for the actions of government agents, their only defense is their own compliance with legal restraint.

          When you defer and kowtow to the government you have no credibility to lose, I fear.

        • Yeah, and murderers caught red handed are innocent until proven guilty. But, they go straight to jail. They’re not given a chance to commit their preferred crime while the government is trying to prove their guilt. Let’s see the same treatment for the alleged crooked gun sellers. Ensuring that they cannot continue with their preferred criminal behavior makes perfect sense. This is not about the ATF. This is about 1000 guns gone who-knows-where.

        • avatarJustSomeGuy says:

          You’re paying lip service to the idea, “murderers caught red handed are innocent until proven guilty,” but you miss the concept, I fear. Until the case has been tried the individual cannot be labeled a murderer because we don’t know the particulars of the event. And you don’t know the particulars of the case discussed in this post but you’ve already decided the guilt of this individual. And alleged is the proof. “Continue with their preferred criminal behavior” adds some flavor.

          Steps have already been taken to ensure that the firearms are secure, the ATF has seized them. Now they want to force asset forfeiture, which is the step too far. The government appears no more interested in the legal concept of innocence than you are. So, yes, this is still about the ATF and their chilling abuse of their authority.

        • avatarBuuurr says:

          …”you’re bias is showing and you lose credibility in some of your other more-or-less reasonable arguments.”

          So what you are saying is that we are going the way of the Mikeyb?

  9. avatarBLAMMO says:

    I think I’m missing something. Based on what I’ve read here, it doesn’t look too good for the merchant. What is leading some of us to presume the ATF has been “overzealous”.

    • avatarJustSomeGuy says:

      From the press release it doesn’t look too good, but this has not seen the inside of a courtroom to this point. So, why do I feel the ATF has been overzealous? The existence of a press release, the number of agents involved, the asset forfeiture request ahead of a trial (if they are granted forfeiture it seems unlikely he will ever see that property again, regardless of the outcome of a trial), the “look at all the good we do” timing of these recent busts…

      The activities of the ATF may, in the end, be upheld as perfectly legitimate. But I feel any activity of any government agency should be subject to intense scrutiny, and the activities that threaten the freedoms of individuals all the more so.

  10. avatarJohn Fritz says:

    I don’t suppose the fact that Mr. Ludington had > 3,000 guns ready to be forfeited to the BATFE had anything to do with this investigation one way or the other…

Leave a Reply

Please use your real name instead of you company name or keyword spam.