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Camp Pendleton Marine charged with selling short-barreled ghost rifles

Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base sign outside the main gate of the base. (UT File Photo/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

Undercover federal agents had already bought 12 homemade AR-15-style rifles from a Camp Pendleton Marine when they told him last month what the ghost guns were being used for, according to a criminal complaint.

The undercover agents claimed the un-serialized rifles, 10 of which had short barrels, were being deployed to protect illegal cannabis grows in Northern California, according to the complaint. And they said an associate wanted 10 similar weapons to take to Mexico.

“Alright, perfect,” came the Marine’s reply, according to the complaint.

Lance Cpl. Christian Ferrari was charged Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Diego with three counts of dealing firearms without a license, for the alleged selling of the 12 ghost guns — firearms without serial numbers that are typically privately manufactured or assembled from prepackaged kits — and two counts of possession of unregistered firearms in connection with the 10 short-barreled rifles.

His court-appointed attorney declined to comment Friday.

According to the complaint, Ferrari came to the attention of law enforcement during an investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office. A confidential informant told sheriff’s investigators that Ferrari was a Marine based at Camp Pendleton involved in making and selling un-serialized firearms, according to the court document.

Camp Pendleton officials said Friday evening that Ferrari is a rifleman with 1st Marine Regiment, an infantry regiment that’s part of the 1st Marine Division. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 2020 and has deployed overseas, according to the statement.

Sheriff’s investigators passed along the tip to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in January, telling the agency that Ferrari would be expecting a call from a prospective buyer, according to the complaint. That’s how an undercover ATF agent began texting with Ferrari.

The first sale was set up in March after the undercover agent agreed to pay $2,250 for two un-serialized, privately made AR-15-style rifles, according to the complaint. During the meeting in San Diego, Ferrari allegedly told the agent he made the guns himself and could produce one per day, saying he typically charged $1,800 per rifle for buyers purchasing one at a time.

As they were chatting, the undercover agent mentioned a photo Ferrari had previously sent depicting what appeared to be short-barreled rifles, according to the complaint.

“I can do real short,” Ferrari allegedly told the agent, who then placed an order for five such guns.

About two weeks later, Ferrari and the agent met up again, this time in El Cajon, where the undercover ATF investigator purchased five un-serialized, short-barreled rifles for $5,500, according to the complaint. Ferrari allegedly told the agent he made the firearms in East County and he could “keep them coming.”

In mid-April they met again in El Cajon, completing another deal of five short-barreled ghost rifles for $5,500, according to the complaint. The 10 guns sold in El Cajon each had a barrel length of 9.25 or 9.5 inches, according to ATF agents.

Federal firearms laws dictate that rifles must have barrels at least 16 inches long.

Agents arrested Ferrari on Wednesday and he appeared in court the same day. Court records indicate a prosecutor asked a judge to detain him as a flight risk, but the judge denied the request and Ferrari was later released on $40,000 bond.


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