THREE retired US marines are suspected of selling illegal assault weapons to a notorious Los Angeles street gang.
The suspected ringleader, Adam Gitschlag, who served in Iraq and was once based at Camp Pendleton, was arrested at his Orange County home on November 2 as part of an operation carried out by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as military investigators and local police.
The three arrests were announced yesterday, a week after a US navy SEAL in San Diego and two others were charged with smuggling machine guns from Iraq for sale on the black market.
Investigative documents say Mr Gitschlag oversaw the sale of two cases containing firearms, including an AK-47, two Russian and Romanian variants of the weapon and two other semi-automatic rifles. Under California law, it is illegal to own or sell unregistered assault weapons. Mr Gitschlag said the charges were “definitely untrue”, and that he was a private weapons collector.
“I did not sell any gang members any weapons,” he said. “I love my country with all my heart. I would never expect my government to do this.”
The ATF says Mr Gitschlag and another former marine met a postal service supervisor, a Florencia 13 street gang member and other associates in the car park of a Pasadena post office on June 23 and sold them the weapons for $US6000.
One of the men was working as an ATF informant. In front of the F-13 gang member, the informant asked Mr Gitschlag if he would be willing to sell more firearms to other gang members. He agreed, according to a search warrant affidavit.