Marines Accused of Selling Guns to Street Gang

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP

    Three retired Marines were accused of selling illegal assault weapons to a Los Angeles street  gang, federal agents said Tuesday. The arrest comes just one week after charges were filed against a Navy SEAL in San Diego for smuggling guns from Iraq for sale on the black market.

    Adam Andrew Gitschlag, 28, of San Clemente, was arrested in a Nov. 2 raid of his home. Jose Smith Pacheco, 31, of Montebello, and Miguel A. Ortiz, 49, of Northridge, were arrested Monday, according to agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. All three are ex-Marines, and Ortiz is a postal employee.
      
    Also arrested were Edwin Cano, 33, of Northridge and Christopher John Thomas, 32, of Van Nuys, according to ATF.

    Investigative documents state that Gitschlag oversaw the sale of two cases containing firearms, including an AK-47, two Russian and Romanian variants of the weapon and two other semiautomatic rifles.

    Reached on his cell phone, Gitschlag said the charges are "definitely untrue," and that he is a private weapons collector and patriot who has worked hard to serve his country.

    "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 the deal was carried out June 23 in the parking lot of a Pasadena post office. Gitschlag, along with another former Marine, met with a postal service supervisor, a Florencia 13 street gang member and other associates, and sold them the weapons for $6,000, the ATF said. One of the men buying the guns was working as an ATF informant.
      
    "These arrests show that there are people still illegally trafficking firearms to gang members for profit," John A. Torres of the ATF office in Los Angeles said.
      
    Thomas, Ortiz and Pacheco pleaded not guilty today in state court to charges of having unlawful guns and are due back Nov. 18 for a preliminary hearing, according to ATF.
      
    Gitschlag left the Marines in 2005 after serving in Fallujah. He said he is a disabled combat vet. He is free on $20,000 bail and is scheduled for arraignment Nov. 24.
      
    Cano is free on $100,000 bail pending arraignment.

    On Nov. 3, authorities arrested three men, including an active duty U.S. Navy SEAL, for conspiring to smuggle and sell weapons to an undercover federal agent in Nevada and Colorado.

    According to a criminal complaint, SEAL Nicholas Bickle of San Diego smuggled 80 AK-47 weapons from Iraq or Afghanistan, including factory-made 7.62 mm Iraqi machine guns that would be difficult or impossible to trace. Other weapons included Ruger handguns of the type used by U.S. military police officers.

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