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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

November 8, 2010

Contact: Special Agent Christian Hoffman, PIO
Office: (818) 265-2507
Cell: (213) 216-3622

Former Marines Arrested on Weapons Charges

LOS ANGELES — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) today announced the arrests of five people, including three former Marines, suspected of selling illegal assault weapons to gang members in the San Fernando Valley.

The arrests are the culmination of a 12-month multi-agency investigation into the illegal trafficking of firearms.

On Nov. 2, agents from ATF, Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General Special Agent (OIG), and officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, served a search warrant at the residence of Adam Andrew Gitschlag, 28, of San Clemente, Calif. The former Marine was arrested without incident. Agents and officers recovered several items of evidence linking Gitschlag to illegal firearms trafficking and possession of weapons in violation of California state law.

On Monday, ATF agents arrested Jose Smith Pacheco, 31, of Montebello, and Miguel A. Ortiz, 49, of Northridge, both former Marines. Also arrested were Edwin Cano, 33, of Northridge, and Christopher John Thomas, 32, of Van Nuys.

The four, along with Gitschlag, are charged with five counts each of having unlawful assault weapons, including four AK-47 assault rifles and an AR-15 assault weapon. Cano faces three additional counts, including two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon.

The felony complaint for arrest warrant was filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Deputy District Attorney Steven Dickman of the Hardcore Gang Division is prosecuting the case.

Dickman said the complaint alleges the crimes were committed to benefit a criminal street gang. The five defendants allegedly sold $6,000 worth of illegal weapons on June 23 to a person they thought was connected to Florencia 13 street gang. The sale allegedly occurred on U.S. Postal Service property after Ortiz, who works for the Post Office, opened the gate to a secured parking lot to the other defendants.

We are pleased with the outcome of this case, said John A. Torres, Special Agent in Charge, ATF Los Angeles Field Division. These arrests show that there are people still illegally trafficking firearms to gang members for profit. ATF will continue with our mission in keeping the public safe, by investigating all firearms-related violent crimes, and arresting those that place the public in danger.

The American public expects postal employees to be diligent and honest. The OIG works to ensure that integrity and when postal employees' actions turn into criminal violations, Special Agents aggressively investigate those crimes, said Nichole Cooper, Special Agent in Charge, US Postal Service, OIG.

Thomas, Ortiz and Pacheco pleaded not guilty today at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center, Department 30. They were ordered back to court on Nov. 18 to set a date for their preliminary hearing. They are being held on $95,000 bail each.

Gitschlag, who was released earlier on $20,000 bail, is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 24 in Department 30. Cano was released on $100,000 bail. Arraignment information will be given later.

If convicted, each defendant is facing more than 20 years in state prison. More information about ATF and its programs is available at