SACRAMENTO—Special agents in the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Firearms assisted in an investigation which led to a five-year, six-month prison sentence for a Sacramento man who illegally made and sold firearms, possessed a machine gun and an unregistered firearm.
Luis Cortez-Garcia, 44, was sentenced on August 11, 2017. According to court records, Cortez-Garcia ran a firearm parts business called LCG AR‑15 Parts and Custom Accessories on Florin Road in Sacramento. Through this business, he sold AR-15-style firearms that were manufactured in the metal shop at the rear of the business. Cortez-Garcia did not have a license to manufacture or sell firearms and as an illegal alien and a felon, Cortez-Garcia was prohibited from possessing firearms.
On December 9, 2016, Luis Cortez-Garcia’s brother and co‑defendant Emiliano Cortez‑Garcia was sentenced to six years in prison for unlawful manufacturing and dealing in firearms, possession of a machine gun, and possession of an unregistered firearm.
During the investigation, undercover agents, and at least one convicted felon, purchased manufactured-to-order assault weapons from the defendants. These firearms did not have any manufacturer markings or serial numbers, making them untraceable should they be involved in criminal activity. During a search of the business on October 9, 2013, law enforcement officers seized 312 guns, including multiple, fully automatic, assault rifles, illegal short-barreled rifles, and silencers.
“This type of illegal activity can lead to the death of innocent people,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “DOJ special agents in the Bureau of Firearms investigate illegal firearm activity and routinely remove firearms from those who are legally prohibited from being in possession of one. This is vital work in the protection of Californians and those who visit here.”
Most firearm parts are not subject to regulation by ATF and can be bought and sold without reporting the sales and without requiring a background check. According to court documents, the defendants and others involved in the scheme sold the parts necessary to assemble a firearm. The parts included a metal casting of an incomplete lower receiver called a “blank,” which is not considered a firearm by ATF. The blank is eventually converted into a lower receiver using a drill press or automated machine that creates the precise shape and space necessary for the lower receiver to accept the parts that will allow the firing of a projectile. These parts (e.g., the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism) are the internal mechanical parts that combine with a trigger, firing pin, and other parts to form a functioning firearm. Once the blank is milled into a completed lower receiver, it is considered a firearm by statute even if there is no barrel, handle, or trigger, and it is subject to federal regulation.
According to court records, once a customer purchased the firearm parts including a blank lower receiver, the customer was directed to Emiliano Cortez-Garcia who operated the metal shop at the business. Once Emiliano Cortez-Garcia had completed machining the lower receiver, he or Luis Cortez-Garcia would assemble the completed AR-15. Customers paid cash to receive a complete firearm that bore no serial number. No ATF paperwork or background checks were completed. During the course of the investigation, ATF conducted seven undercover purchases of AR-15 firearms.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Firearms with assistance from the Sacramento Police Department, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Highway Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Lee prosecuted the case.