Monday, January 12, 2015
Panel Upholds Dealers’ Convictions in Machine Gun Scheme
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday upheld the felony convictions of two gun dealers for their roles in a conspiracy to circumvent the federal ban on machine gun sales.
Randolph Benjamin Rodman of Maryland and Idan C. Greenberg of Arizona were sentenced to prison terms of 121 months and 33 months respectively, by U.S. District Judge Roslyn O. Silver in Phoenix in June 2103.
The appellate panel, however, found the sentences to be excessive and sent the case back to the district court for resentencing.
The two were among six dealers charged in the scheme.
A federal law that took effect in 1986 banned the manufacture of machine guns for civilian use and the transfer of such weapons between private citizens. But a grandfather clause allows for such transfers if the gun was registered by May 19, 1986, and taxes paid and paperwork filed with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Nearly 200,000 such weapons were registered. Some are of minimal value, but others sell for prices reported at up to $20,000. Prosecutors said the indicted dealers removed serial numbers from less valuable weapons, and placed them on newly manufactured guns that were then offered for sale at premium prices.
ATF agents said they confiscated more than 30 such weapons.
One of those indicted, George Clark of Arizona, reached an agreement with prosecutors and testified against Greenberg and Rodman. He said he began making guns with transferred serial numbers in 1993.
Greenberg was convicted of conspiracy, illegal possession of a machine gun, and receipt and possession of a firearm made in violation of the National Firearms Act. Rodman was found guilty on 22 charges, including conspiracy; the manufacturing, possession, receipt and transfer of machine guns in violation of the act; and making false entries on applications and records.
On appeal, the Ninth Circuit panel said Rodman was properly convicted of trying to defraud the government by filing forms that purported to show that guns could be lawfully transferred when the defendant knew they could not be.
“There is ample evidence here that Rodman impeded the lawful government functions of the ATF and the NFA Branch by submitting fraudulent forms,” Judge Milan D. Smith Jr.
Smith also rejected the defense claim that the district judge should have given an entrapment instruction, based on Rodman’s testimony that Clark told him that transferring serial numbers was a lawful means of bringing a new gun within the grandfather clause. Clark, as a federal firearms licensee, was not a government agent in the context of a transaction with another licensee, Smith said.
The judge also rejected Rodman’s reliance on the “buyer-and-seller” rule, normally applied in drug cases, that the purchase and sale of contraband does not, in and of itself, constitute a conspiracy between the buyer and seller. In this case, Smith emphasized, the object of the conspiracy was not merely to sell guns, but to defraud the government.
In separate, unpublished memoranda, the court rejected other claims made by Rodman and Greenberg, but accepted the government’s concession that the sentences were excessive because the district judge applied trafficking enhancements that were not proven. The panel remanded for resentencing.
The case is United States v. Rodman, 13-10337.
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