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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Central District of California

For Immediate Release

Friday, October 8, 2021
Tracy Wilkison
, United States Attorney
Contact: Thom Mrozek

Former Gardena Police Officer Again Found Guilty of Operating Unlicensed Firearms Business

LOS ANGELES – At the conclusion of a second trial prompted by an earlier conviction being overturned, a former Gardena Police officer has been found guilty of federal charges for scheming to purchase “off-roster” firearms not available to the general public and then illegally reselling the firearms for profit.

A federal jury on Thursday convicted Edward Yasushiro Arao, 51, of Eastvale, of conspiracy to engage in the business of dealing firearms without a license and a substantive count of engaging in an unlicensed firearms business.

According to the evidence presented during a four-day trial, Arao and his co-conspirator, former Gardena Police officer Carlos Fernandez, 46, of Norwalk, exploited their positions as police officers to operate an illegal gun-selling business.

As part of the scheme, Arao purchased “off-roster” firearms – all Colt .38 Super-caliber handguns that were not available to the general public, but which could be legally purchased by law enforcement officers – through Ronin Tactical Group, a federal firearms licensee that Arao owned and operated. Arao then transferred the guns to himself individually from the inventory of Ronin Tactical Group and re-sold 41 of these weapons to non-law enforcement officers. Similarly, Fernandez obtained multiple “off-roster” weapons, which he re-sold to the general public through Ronin Tactical Group. Through messages on Instagram and via other means, Arao and Fernandez negotiated the prices and terms of firearm sales, and then delivered the guns and accepted payment, often in cash.

In a previous trial in November 2019, a federal jury found Arao guilty of the same two felony charges and found Fernandez guilty of conspiracy, selling firearms to a convicted felon, engaging in an unlicensed firearms business, and making false statements in federal firearms licensing paperwork.

In March 2020, United States District Judge S. James Otero sentenced Fernandez to 33 months in federal prison. At the same time, Judge Otero ordered a new trial for Arao after determining the two defendants should not have been tried together.

Arao is scheduled to be sentenced on January 21, 2022 by United States District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez, who took over the case after Judge Otero retired. At sentencing, Arao will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Previously in this case, six other defendants who illegally purchased firearms from Arao and Fernandez pleaded guilty and were sentenced, with two of those defendants being ordered to serve time in federal prison.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated this case. The Gardena Police Department provided its full cooperation during the investigation.

Assistant United States Attorneys Veronica Dragalin and Cassie D. Palmer of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section are prosecuting this case.

Los Angeles Field Division