Three police officers working in the sheriff’s department of Lake County, Ind., are facing indictments for allegedly selling military-grade weapons on the Internet.
The U.S. attorney’s office says a federal grand jury returned firearm and tax violation indictments on Edward Kabella, Joseph Kumstar and Ronald Slusser.
The three allegedly bought 74 fully automatic machine guns and 92 laser aiming devices from a reputable dealer and resold them. Online sales of the guns and parts allegedly netted the officers thousands of dollars.
Federal prosecutors allege that some of the guns and parts were used in crimes in Canada and Mississippi.
“When you sell things like this to anybody on the Internet, you have no idea who’s going to end up with them,” said David Capp, U.S. Attorney for Northern Indiana. Capp made the announcment about the indictments during a Thursday afternoon news conference at the Federal Courthouse in Hammond.
The scheme occurred between September 2008 and January 2010, which would place it during the tenure of former Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez, who left office at the end of 2010.
Kabella, 42, worked as a patrol officer, and Slusser, 47, served as a SWAT team member and firearms instructor with the sheriff’s office. Both are from Crown Point.
Kumstar, 40, also of Crown Point, was a 17-year veteran of the department and had served as deputy chief for Dominguez.
The three officers purchased the H&K machine guns in the name of the sheriff’s department, since these types of guns can only be purchased by law enforcement agencies, according to the indictment.
The guns were shipped to the sheriff’s department in Crown Point and then removed to Slusser’s home. The barrels and additional parts from the machine guns were then removed and sold on the Internet.
The indictment alleges the three also under-reported their income from the sales of guns and parts.
According to the indictment, Slusser understated his income in 2006 by nearly $300,000; Kumstar understated his income by $30,000 in 2009; and Kabella understated his include in 2009 by more than $58,000.
“It’s unfortunate when persons in positions of trust allow their greed to cause them to disregard their oath to enforce the law and subsequently betray and endanger the public they serve,” said Dan Hensen, Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Investigation’s Unit for the Food and Drug Administration’s office in Chicago. The FDA is involved in the investigation because laser devices fall under its jurisdiction.
Capp said the investigation is ongoing and would not say if additional indictments are forthcoming. He says current Lake County Sheriff John Buncich is cooperating with the investigation.
Dominguez, who served as sheriff from 2002 to 2010, said he had no idea the scheme was happening during his administration. He said Kumstar already had a side business in selling guns with a federal license before he become sheriff.
“I have known these individuals. While they were performing their duties as police officers, they always did a good job, to the best of my knowledge,” Dominguez told WBEZ. “If any of these charges are true, then I am surprised and disappointed as we all should be when any police officer is charged with committing a crime.”
Capp said the dealers who originally sold the guns committed no crimes.
But the guns and parts ended up in other crime cases.
For example, in May 2011, authorities in Montreal, Canada, confiscated four gun barrels that listed the Lake County, Ind., Sheriff’s office as the registered owner.
In May 2010, some of the lasers purchased by the officers were found in the home of Keith Mitts, 46, of Madison County, Mississippi, who died following a shootout with police.
Capp said the three officers have agreed to plead guilty to the crimes and have already resigned from the sheriff’s department.
The officers will appear in court in the coming weeks.
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