Issued : Monday, August 11, 2014 06:20 PM
Gun shop owners plead guilty to fraud
By CB Online Staff
The owners of a Puerto Rico armory pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges tied a fraud scheme to grant firearms licenses to some 1,300 people.
María del Carmen Rivera Negrón and her husband Julio Colón Santiago owned The Lawman Gun Shop in Bayamón, which was raided by FBI agents in December and has been shuttered for months.
U.S. District Judge Francisco A. Besosa set a sentencing hearing for Dec. 11.
Under a plea deal, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend between five and 12 year behind bars for the convicted couple. They could have faced up to 15 years in prison on charges of falsifying identification documents, five years for falsifying court documents, five years for conspiracy, two years for each identity theft count and 10 years for helping convicted felons get guns and firearms licenses.
Rivera Negrón and Colón Santiago were arrested in mid-March on 490 counts in a scheme in which they charged between $1,000 and $1,500 for each fraudulent transaction. They were allegedly aided in the scheme by notary attorney Antonio M. Peluzzo, who authorities say trolled for customers at The Lawman Gun Shop on PR-2. He was arrested in December and is expected to plead guilty.
The defendants used their direct access to the Police Department’s Bayamón command center to expedite the illegal permits, greasing the wheels with deliveries f donuts, pitorro rum and coffee, according to federal authorities.
The forged judges’ signatures and court documents from judicial centers in Caguas, Humacao, San Juan, Bayamón and Aibonito.
Authorities said Peluzzo trolled for illicit customers at the gun shop, promising to get them licenses to carry firearms without having to show up in court or produce character witnesses. The bogus permits were then given to customers in bars, at the gun shop and shopping centers, authorities said.
“On such a violent island, where murder is rampant, we have 1,000 people or more with firearms acquired with bogus permits,” U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez said after the raid.