Melinda Haag, United States Attorney
Northern District of California
Federal Indictment Charges Two With Dealing Firearms Without a License
A joint law enforcement task force in Salinas, Calif., today executed six search warrants and arrested two individuals on federal firearms charges, United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Stephen C. Herkins announced. During the seven-month investigation, officers seized nine military-style assault weapons, including one fully-automatic AR-15 machinegun, and more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition.
The investigation was spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). More than 70 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers participated in today’s searches and arrests.
Federal prosecutors unsealed a fourteen-count indictment charging two defendants, Israel Espinoza and Manuel Lopez, with federal firearms charges. The defendants are expected to be arraigned on the charges this afternoon before United States Magistrate Howard R. Lloyd in San Jose.
Espinoza, 30, of Salinas, is charged in 12 counts of the Indictment with conspiracy, seven counts of felon-in-possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, possession of a machinegun, possession of an unregistered silencer, and dealing firearms without a license.
Lopez, 45, of Prunedale, Calif., is charged in three counts of the Indictment with conspiracy, possession of a machinegun, and possession of an unregistered silencer.
The maximum statutory penalty for a felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition, and possession of a machinegun is 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000. The maximum penalty for possession of a silencer that is not registered is 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to deal firearms without a license, possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, and dealing a firearm without a license is five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of sentences.
Nat Cousins is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting this case, with the assistance of Kamille Singh. The investigation was led by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; aided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; and U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service. Federal agents teamed with agents from the Salinas Police Department, Monterey County Gang Task Force, and Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, among others.
Please note, an indictment contains only allegations and all defendants must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.