HAMMOND, Ind. (CBS) — Two former Lake County, Ind., Sheriff’s officers appeared in federal court in Hammond Tuesday, pleading guilty to gun trafficking and tax evasion charges.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, Ronald D. Slusser, 47, and Joseph Kumstar, 40, both of Crown Point, Ind., were charged in a federal indictment with using their positions to order the machine guns from various legitimate manufacturers and dealers.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
“They created fraudulent letters using Lake County Sheriff’s Department letterheads, and they created false purchase orders from the Lake County Sheriff’s Department,” David Kapp, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana.
Federal law says only the military and law enforcement agencies — not individuals — may buy fully automated machine guns.
However, the men would take the guns after they had been shipped to the department and send them to Slusser’s house, where he would take them apart, according to the indictment. Slusser would then sell one of the parts, the upper barrel, online for about $1,000 more than the officers had paid for the guns.
Capp said during a news conference last week that the barrels are valuable because they are well made and can fit on any type of gun. They can’t be bought separately, however.
The men ran a similar scheme with military-grade laser sights, which are controlled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These specific sites can actually burn and blind people, Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson said during the plea hearing.
“At no time did the defendants have the permission of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department,” Benson said.
The sights were sold for about twice their original amount online, Benson said.
Both men also pleaded guilty to one count each of lying on their federal tax returns. Slusser admitted he cut $298,566 from his income on his 2006 income tax return. Kumstar admitted to cutting his income by $30,102 on his 2009 tax return. Slusser has agreed to pay back $198,818 to the IRS, and Kumstar has agreed to pay back $22,116.
U.S. District Judge James Moody has yet to set a sentencing date.
A third defendant, Edward Kabella, 42, is also expected to plead guilty. All three men resigned from the sheriff’s police after the charges were announced last week.
The Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.