San Diego

2 Saudi Arabian Nationals Plead Guilty to Renting Guns, Buying Ammunition Illegally at Poway Shooting Range

 Two Saudi Arabian nationals pleaded guilty to federal weapons charges stemming from an incident at a shooting range in Poway.

Two men were arrested and a third is wanted for illegally renting firearms and purchasing ammunition at the Poway Weapons and Gear gun range for target practice. Saad Mutlak Alsahli, Muath Ahmed Alraqibah and Abdulrahman Abdullah Alolaymi rented a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol and a Bravo .223 caliber rifle and bought 100 rounds of .223 caliber ammunition and 50 rounds of 9mm ammunition at the range, according to a Southern District of California court complaint.

Federal court documents confirm that on January 13, attorneys for Alolaymi and Alsahli filed a change of plea on behalf of their clients. Federal Judge Marilyn Huff will sentence the two defendants on January 21 in a downtown San Diego courtroom, according to the document. The third defendent, Alraqibah, left the U.S. before authorities could arrest him. There is a warrant out for his arrest, and he remains a fugitive.

The defense attorneys asked that the sentencing go forward without a presentencing report.

In December, the men handed over Saudi Arabian driver’s licenses as identification to rent the firearms and buy the ammunition for target practice, according to the complaint, signed by Matthew Schick, Special Agent for Homeland Security Investigations in the Department of Homeland Security. 

The gun range owner got suspicious when he saw them videotaping parts of their time there and contacted federal authorities. 

Homeland Security launched an investigation and obtained the gun range rental records and receipts, along with closed circuit video of the man shooting at the gun range.

The men are in the county on F-1 non-immigrant student visas. Under that visa, they are not allowed to possess firearms and ammunition without a valid permit. State records show none of the men had any permit for the firearms, the complaint says. 

Neither of the two firearms rented, or the ammunition purchased, are manufactured in California and came from out-of-state. 

Nothing in the complaint obtained by NBC7 links the students to terrorism. Two sources tell NBC 7 San Diego the only alleged crime is the unlawful possession and use of guns and ammunition at the firing range. 

John Kirby, a former federal prosecutor, told NBC7 he does not think the men would have been charged if they were not from the Middle East.

Ignorance of law, Kirby said, is not an excuse; however, he believes the men would not have done what they did in such an open fashion had they known the law. 

In this case, as with others, prosecutors have discretion, Kirby said, and officials could have deported the men instead. 

Alsahli is represented by Michael Pancer and Alolaymi is represented by Andrew Nietor. Michael Wheat is the prosecuting attorney. 

The court record contains no other details about the plea agreement or any possible prison sentences or fines that might be levied against the two defendants in this case.

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