Tuesday, March 18, 2014

David Codrea: Warrant application shows Ares Armor referenced in wider investigation

More good reporting by David Codrea

Southern California gun parts and accessory dealer Ares Armor continues to inform customers and supporters as to the status of its operations following yesterday’s raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Ares Chief Operations Officer Jeremy Tuma posted an update Saturday evening to his Instagram account where he first posted the news yesterday afternoon that “ATF is currently executing search warrants on all of our locations.”
“We will be burning the midnight oil to assure we are fully operational by morning and that business goes on as uninterrupted as possible,” Tuma stated in last night’s message.

Per Dave Workman, who conducted a telephone interview last night with Ares CEO Dimitrios Karras for The Gun Mag, “federal agents ‘took almost 6,000 lowers’ [and] no arrests of any Ares Armor employees were made.” Supplementing that is a Facebook alert from the CalGuns Foundation advising “We have confirmed that the ATF has searched multiple properties in the Ares Armor/EP Lowers matter and have seized customer lists,” and reminding people approached by law enforcement to “Exercise your right to remain silent; Never consent to a search; Demand an attorney; [and] Contact The Calguns Foundation’s Help Hotline.”

What is unclear is what those “lists” consist of if the lowers were not recorded as firearms. No doubt they include credit/debit purchases, and may also include generic customer lists/mailing lists, etc. With computers seized, ATF has it all.
The ATF action was in response to the company selling so-called “80 percent lower receivers” manufactured by EP Armory, itself the subject of a raid and seizures over parts which have previously been determined by ATF not to be a firearm, as further machining operations must be taken by customers to turn them into functional components.

As reported yesterday in this column, the raid came after a United States District Judge issued an order Friday that a Temporary Restraining Order issued by the court on Tuesday did “not restrain lawful criminal proceedings,” prompting an industry source to predict an imminent warrant and action, which turned out to be the case. Per a legal source, a search for the warrant leading to yesterday’s raid has come up empty, leading to speculation that it has been sealed.

One other potential tie-in, speculated on in Thursday’s Gun Rights Examiner column, and first broached on Monday on The War on Guns blog, was if the law enforcement interest in EP and Ares was part of a wider operation, and specifically, if there is any relation between yesterday’s raids and a February 27 Associated Press report of “[t]wo Sacramento brothers [who] were charged ... with making hundreds of illegal, untraceable firearms as part of what law enforcement officials said was a wide-ranging network designed to skirt federal laws.”

The answer to that turns out to be affirmative, but tangentially, with no implications of criminal activity by Ares, and rather providing documentation that they were seeking to ensure their operations remained lawful.

More here

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