Ex-Gardena Police Officer Sentenced to Nearly 3 Years in Prison for Selling Weapons to Convicted Felons

          LOS ANGELES – A former Gardena Police officer was sentenced today to 33 months in federal prison for scheming to purchase “off-roster” firearms not available to the general public and then illegally reselling the firearms for profit.

          Carlos Miguel Fernandez, 44, of Norwalk, was sentenced by United States District Judge S. James Otero, who stated that Fernandez’s conduct was “egregious” and “shocking.”

          At a six-day trial in November 2019, a jury found Fernandez guilty of conspiracy to engage in the business of dealing firearms without a license and of substantive counts of engaging in an unlicensed firearms business. Fernandez also was found guilty of an additional conspiracy count, selling firearms to a convicted felon, and of making false statements about the sales on federal firearms licensing paperwork. Following the guilty verdict, the Gardena Police Department terminated Fernandez’s employment.

          Fernandez, whose Instagram handle was “the38superman,” advertised firearms for sale – guns being offered by both himself and others – on his Instagram account. The vast majority of posts on the account contained images of firearms. Fernandez marketed firearms at gun shows. He was not licensed to engage in the business of dealing in firearms.

          Fernandez exploited his position as a police officer to ensure the success of his illegal gun selling business. Specifically, Fernandez purchased “off-roster” firearms – mostly Colt .38-caliber handguns that were not available to the general public, but which could be legally purchased by law enforcement officers – and sold dozens of these weapons through private-party transfers. Through messages on Instagram and other means, Fernandez negotiated the prices and terms of firearm sales, and he accepted payment for the guns once the firearms were delivered.

          Between May 2016 and December 2017, Fernandez negotiated and arranged the sale of 10 firearms to a convicted felon, Oscar Maravilla Camacho Jr., 36, of Salinas. With respect to every sale, Fernandez communicated directly with Camacho Jr. about the firearms purchases and understood that Camacho Jr., as a felon, could not legally buy the weapons. Nevertheless, Fernandez transferred the weapons to Camacho Jr. in violation of federal law. Camacho Jr. is serving a six-year federal prison sentence in this case after he pleaded guilty in November 2019 to conspiracy and cocaine distribution charges.

          “(Fernandez) ignored the dangerous nature of his conduct, in flagrant disregard of his duties and oath as a law enforcement officer, and did so because he was motivated to make money,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum.

          Judge Otero today also ordered a new trial for Edward Yasushiro Arao, 49, of Eastvale, who was found guilty by the same jury that convicted Fernandez. Judge Otero ruled that his previous decision that Arao and Fernandez be tried together was erroneous. A March 18 status conference has been set to discuss a new trial date for Arao.

          Six other defendants in this case have pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges for distribution of cocaine, conspiracy to dispose of firearms to a felon, and making false statements that led to the straw purchase of several firearms.

          The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated this case. The Gardena Police Department provided its full cooperation during the investigation.

          This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Katherine A. Rykken of the Major Frauds Section and Veronica Dragalin of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.

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