(The Center Square) – An Arizona man will spend years behind bars for illegally selling firearms, including one used in an incident where a California police officer was murdered.
Gilbert, Arizona, resident Chris Oliver, 24, received a 33-month prison sentence on Oct. 17. Oliver pleaded guilty to dealing in firearms without a license, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice. He received the sentence from United States District Judge Douglas L. Rayes.
According to the DOJ news release, Oliver was the mastermind behind the illegal gun sales ring.
Oliver received his indictment for conspiracy to purchase firearms from licensed Arizona gun dealers using false statements so that he could resell those firearms for a profit. Along with his co-defendants, Dion Delpino, 24, of Gilbert, Arizona; Michael Troy Kelly, Jr., 24, of Tempe, Arizona; and Eric Roy Rathbun, II, 24, of Chandler, Arizona, the group was charged with 76 instances of making false statements during firearm purchases. All of Oliver’s co-conspirators have pleaded guilty to those charges.
From July 2019 through November 2020, Oliver and his co-conspirators bought at least 123 firearms with the intent of selling them for a profit.
Oliver sold most of those firearms, but 30 have been recovered by law enforcement. This includes 28 in Oakland, California, and two in the Phoenix metro area.
Notably, six of the firearms were recovered in separate homicide investigations. That includes one in Stockton, California, where Police Officer Jimmy "Arty" Inn was murdered in May 2021 while responding to a domestic violence call.
While Oliver managed the criminal enterprise, his co-conspirators purchased weapons on his behalf. Oliver, Kelly, and Delpino first received their indictments in August 2021. Plus, additional charges were added against Oliver in May 2022, the same month Rathbun was indicted.
Oliver’s prosecution was part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program. It is “the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts,” according to the news release.
“PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime,” the Justice Department says of the program. “Through PSN, many stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.”
The following entities investigated Oliver’s case: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Phoenix, Mesa, Gilbert, and Scottsdale Police Departments; Homeland Security Investigations; and the Commercial Narcotics Interdiction Unit of the Phoenix Police Department.