ATF

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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

June 29, 2011

www.atf.gov

Contact: Special Agent Christian Hoffman, PIO

Office: (818) 265-2507

Cell: (213) 216-3622

christian.hoffman@atf.gov

ATF Undercover Operation Targets West Valley Firearm Traffickers

LOS ANGELES – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) today announced the arrest of nine defendants for various firearms and narcotics violations as the result of Operation Woodchuck, an undercover operation that targeted firearm traffickers in the San Fernando Valley. An additional three suspects were arrested during today’s takedown unrelated to this investigation.

Operation Woodchuck was a year-long ATF investigation conducted in partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Office of Correctional Safety-Special Service Unit (CDCR-SSU), and the Los Angeles Police Department. With information provided by CDCR-SSU, an ATF undercover agent was able to infiltrate a group of criminals who were selling illegal firearms and narcotics in the San Fernando Valley. During the course of the investigation, ATF undercover agents purchased stolen firearms, machine guns and silencers.

This is the end result of another grass-roots investigation at which ATF agents excel; a case involving good old-fashioned police work using undercover agents and surveillance resulting in the arrest of career criminals. The strategy of ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division remains one of relentlessly and aggressively pursuing firearms traffickers like these, said John A. Torres, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Los Angeles Field Division. Taking 58 firearms off the streets of Los Angeles will have an impact now and in the future.

Daniel Evanilla, Senior Special Agent of CDCR-SSU, stated: CDCR, ATF and LAPD worked collaboratively on this case to recover weapons from criminals who obtained them and distributed them illegally. ATF put their agents out on the streets of Los Angeles to retrieve these firearms before they could be put in the wrong hands. I applaud ATF for participation in this dangerous operation, which involved the undercover purchase of firearms – not stolen microwave ovens – and was a very dangerous operation for all involved.

11 of the 12 people wanted this morning were named in indictments returned last week by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles. The indictments allege crimes ranging from conspiracy to deal in firearms without a license, felon in possession of a firearm, possession of an unregistered machine gun, transfer of an unregistered machine gun in violation of the National Firearms Act (), distribution of methamphetamine, and possession of an unregistered firearm. The federal defendants arrested this morning are:

  • David Abbott, 52, Los Angeles;
  • Elijah Brown, 38, Los Angeles; fugitive at this time
  • Anthony R. Campos, 37, Canoga Park;
  • Arthur Chorny, 41, Studio City;
  • Drew D. Darchuck, 42, Northridge;
  • Mitchell D. Knox, 22, Studio City; fugitive at this time
  • Guillermo R. Navarrete, 35, Northridge;
  • Manuel Santo, 41, Canoga Park;
  • Guy F. Smith, 49, Los Angeles;
  • Hector Valles, 46, Northridge; fugitive at this time
  • Mehran Zamany, 46, Woodland Hills.

The eight federal defendants arrested are expected to be arraigned today in United States District Court in Los Angeles. If convicted of the charges in the indictment, they face prison sentences ranging from five years to life. The remaining three suspects listed above are considered federal fugitives at the time of this posting. Please call 1-800-ATF-GUNS with any information related to their whereabouts.

Claire P. Haviland, 49, Chatsworth, the 12th defendant, has been charged by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office on state firearm and narcotic violations.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Operation Woodchuck was a joint investigation conducted by ATF, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – Special Services Unit and LAPD. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office provided assistance this morning with securing a marine vessel that was seized administratively by ATF on allegations it was used in the commission of transporting a NFA weapon during an undercover transaction.

More information about ATF and its programs is available at www.atf.gov.

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