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Old April 6, 2013, 11:31 AM   #1
rodentrancher
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Getting a stolen rifle back from ATF?

Good afternoon, folks. Was hoping someone here has dealt with something similar to the following situation, and could offer advice:

In late 2011 I took a Ruger #1 I owned to a FFL-licensed gunsmith for some work. In January 2012 that smith was burgled and many firearms, including mine, were taken. I filed the appropriate reports with local police promptly. Some of the culprits were quickly apprehended, and my rifle was recovered within a few weeks. Unfortunately, since the items were stolen from a FFL, local law enforcement turned the case over to ATF.

I spoke to the ATF agent in charge several times during the spring and summer of 2012. I was eventually told that the burglars were thought to be associated with a larger gang, and that my rifle would be held for evidence until investigations and trials were complete - probably a year to 18 months - then returned to me.

I continued to check on the issue every few months, however, the agent in question has ceased returning my calls and emails. At this point it's been 15 months since the theft, I can get no response from anyone at ATF, and I've had to move to a different state, which will complicate any legal action I attempt.

Note that this rifle was never used in a crime (anyone ever heard of a gangbanger using a Ruger #1?), and I can easily prove I'm the original purchaser. It's just one of many items of stolen property that were recovered, and seems unlikely to be a critical piece of evidence in any investigation. I am beginning to be somewhat sceptical of the original reassurance and explanation I received from ATF.

Any suggestions will be gratefully considered.
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Old April 6, 2013, 11:44 AM   #2
JimDandy
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Hire a lawyer with firearms law knowledge. While Uncle Sam's departments aren't always immune to the lure of spending our money defending something stupid and at least quasi-illegal, often times two little letters can get something moving. Those two letters are J.D..
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Old April 6, 2013, 12:00 PM   #3
Tom Servo
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Rodent, are you sure the ATF has it, and not local law-enforcement?

Also, if you could give your location, we might be of more help.
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Old April 6, 2013, 01:32 PM   #4
rodentrancher
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I'm quite certain the ATF has it. It was originally stolen from a gunsmith in Aiken County, SC, where I lived at the time. Both the gunsmith and I reported the theft to the Aiken County sheriff's department. We were both told by the Sheriff's department shortly thereafter that because the theft was from an FFL (the smith was an FFL also, as he sold custom rifles), it was a Federal crime, so they turned it over to the ATF.

I was able to eventually get in contact with an agent in the Augusta, Georgia ATF office, who seemed forthcoming at first. He confirmed that he had the weapon in his evidence safe, describing it accurately (one of the stainless metal/walnut stock Lipsey's specials, pretty distinctive). He promised to keep me informed if I touched base with him every 2 or 3 months. That lasted about 6 months, then he quit returning voice mails and emails. I've contacted the regional ATF office in Columbia, SC, and was told that this agent was still handling the case, was still with ATF, and was the only one who could give me any further information.

The original thieves, BTW, have long since been busted, plead, and sentenced. The story the agent gave me before he quit responding to me was that my rifle was somehow evidence in a larger criminal case against some gang or another that the primary perps were involved with. I was willing to buy that and be patient when he was returning my calls and keeping me updated - not so much now.
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Old April 6, 2013, 03:58 PM   #5
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i have a freind that had about 8 guns stolen by his maid. they caught the lady and she is sitting in jail. she had pawned off 6 of the rifles and the sheriff said that the other 2 were not recovered. the sheriff managed to find 1 pawn shop that had 2 of the rifles, which he confiscated. then the sheriff proceeded to have the weapons destroyed after all the trials were over. in my opinion: if your guns are stolen, they are gone forever. the gov't dosent want to give back any guns to the public that they can get their hands on.
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Old April 6, 2013, 04:14 PM   #6
grizz223
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Mausermolt
Tell your friend to get a lawyer and sue them for those guns. I am a Deputy and we have to give them back to the party that had them stolen or we get to pay for them.

rodentrancher
The feds are next to useless as far as law enforcement goes. We had a slam dunk for them with four federal felonies and they refused to press charges.They probably lost it and don't want to pay for it. Go over that agents head ask for a supervisor.
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Old April 6, 2013, 04:24 PM   #7
Mike38
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Quote:
if your guns are stolen, they are gone forever.
I was told those exact words from a Law Enforcement Officer back about 20 years ago when I had a .22 Ruger revolver stolen from my home. He took down the report, wished me the best, and again reminded me that I never would see that Ruger again, even if Law Enforcement recovered it.

Well, three months later the same Officer called me and said they found my handgun in Rockford Illinois. It was used in a convenience store robbery, the perp got caught a few hours after the holdup with my handgun in his car. I was told the Rockford Police had it, and needed to retain it for evidence, and maybe, just maybe I could get it back after the trial.

Two years past, and I had long given up on ever seeing it again. Then I get a call from the Rockford Illinois Police, they said come and get your handgun. I should have just told them to keep it. The handgun had less then 50 rounds shot threw it by me, so it was still like new. When I again took possession of it, it looked like it was drug down the highway, and had rust spots all over it. A holdup and two years of sitting in the basement evidence room took it’s toll on my Ruger.

Best of luck to you Rodentrancher, but don’t get your hopes up.
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Old April 6, 2013, 09:05 PM   #8
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Rodent, I'm a bit confused by the geography. Was the gun recovered in Georgia? If so, you should contact the Atlanta field division. If not, try the one in Charlotte.

If you don't get answers, consider getting an attorney to send a letter. Sometimes that shakes the cobwebs loose.
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Old April 6, 2013, 09:22 PM   #9
MLeake
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TS, Aiken County IIRC is just across the state line, just north of I-20 (Greer area, horse country), so Augusta would be the nearest large city in GA.
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Old April 6, 2013, 09:47 PM   #10
Mauser8mm
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ATF..

They are gun grabbers, and they probably don't want to give it back. It is your rifle, and your property, and it should be a crime for them to hold it. Get a lawyer, that's my suggestion.
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Old April 6, 2013, 10:15 PM   #11
Jim Watson
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A sad case.
A club member here had a number of guns stolen.
He went to all stores and shows with a copy of the police report. He found a few at a gun show and was able to get them back. The rest never seen again.

I was luckier. The punk who stole guns from me wrecked his (stolen) car before he could fence them and I got most of them back immediately, the rest in a few days.
I came up missing one .357 but since decided it had already been stolen by one or another workman and I just had not missed it because I was not shooting revolvers at the time. I figure it is gone for good.
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Old April 6, 2013, 10:26 PM   #12
2ndsojourn
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I was told by a cop a few years ago if a gun is stolen, don't expect to see it again. Why wouldn't the FFL's/smith's insurance policy cover the theft?
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Old April 7, 2013, 08:48 AM   #13
rodentrancher
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Tom,

Aiken, SC is essentially a suburb of Augusta, GA. Less than 10 miles, whereas the nearest large city in SC, Columbia, is about 60 miles away. Atlanta is about 160 miles away. Local ATF agents apparently operate out of Augusta and report to the Columbia regional office.


2ndsojurn,
The gunsmith didn't have an insurance policy. Or an alarm system, as I found out after reading the police report. Or any apparent shreds of integrity or honesty, as I found out when he wouldn't even refund his smithing fees after the theft, let alone offer to pay for the rifle.

This is a moderately well known smith, used to be associated with a well-known custom rifle maker, had a decent web page. I let myself be taken in by that, and didn't do the deeper research to verify that he had little things like an alarm system and insurance.

I did more extensive research after the theft, and found out this guy has well known for being A) a very good gunsmith, B) a really poor, unreliable business operator, and C) somewhat integrity-impaired.

And yes, I know I have a legal case against him, but after a brief consult with a lawyer, and taking into account that I needed to move 500 miles away for a new job before a lawsuit would come to trial, I decided it wasn't practical for me to sue. I believe he ended up "closing" the business he was using at the time and reopening under a different business name, possibly to discharge debts incurred by the uninsured thefts through bankruptcy of the old business.

If anyone is looking for a gunsmith for Ruger #1 work, I can tell you who NOT to use . . .
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Old April 7, 2013, 09:24 AM   #14
deepcreek
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Years ago I had a gun stolen, the person was arrested a few days later with the gun. I went to the police seeking the gun they gave me a run around, I filed an "internal investigation" the gun magically appeared the next day.

2 years later the same cops that had possession of the gun were investigated by the FBI for stealing guns. They had dozens of stolen guns and started throwing them in lakes when the FBI came in. The FBI told the prosecuting attorney Kimball Mason he could take the wrap for all the guns or bring all of his police buddies with him, so the prosecuting attorney Kimball Mason took the wrap and is still in Idaho prison system today.

When you are dealing with ATF they really don't have anyone to answer to, so I am not sure where to make noise about that. You probably don't want to spend thousands on a lawyer so maybe you could do some calling and research where you could file a formal compliant or some kind of formal file so they have to be accountable for that gun or the gun can be traced back to their possession.
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Old April 7, 2013, 10:25 AM   #15
MLeake
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Contacting congressmen and Senators is still free.
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Old April 7, 2013, 10:47 AM   #16
rodentrancher
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MLeake: good point, and what I think I'll try next. Nothing to lose by it. As Mike38 suggested, I'm not getting my hopes up, but maybe I'll get lucky.

I do kind of wish I could have seen the look on the face of the first punk who tried to use the rifle: "Hey, where's the magazine go on this thing . . ."
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Old April 7, 2013, 06:48 PM   #17
Tom Servo
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Sorry, Rodent. Staff can't be troubled to actually read a map!

My suggestion regarding legal representation was so he could contact the ATF, not the dealer. It sounds like you're hitting a dead-end there (how did he run without insurance?). A letter from an attorney might get the stuck wheel moving in the Augusta office.
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Old April 8, 2013, 10:00 AM   #18
+1k ammo
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I would say it's as good as gone. You might press the issue but end up spending a lot of time and money.

I had a gun confiscated by the Chicago Police a long time ago and have never seen it again. It was all a missunderstanding, but technically it was in Chicago and I should not have had it in my home. Yes, I was being totally honest in telling them I had it, but in hindsight that was stupid.

Anyway, they said I would get it back after a check, but never did and my inquiries at local department and on phone were passed off.

I wouldn't waste my time and move on.
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Old April 8, 2013, 08:37 PM   #19
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Best luck in recovery of your gun. You could certainly ask a lawyer to help you, and write to an elected official. Might work, but I doubt it. As an example of how the government agencies regard your property, 'Americas First Freedom' magazine showed us several photos of guns stolen, by federal employees, from citizens following Katrina. Nothing but rusty scrap metal after being held by government agents. My feeling is they couldn't care less about your firearm, and have no intention of ever returning it to you. Sad but true. Hope your case is resolved in a positive manner.
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Old April 9, 2013, 02:15 AM   #20
MLeake
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People not pressing the issue is why LE still does this...
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Old April 9, 2013, 07:39 AM   #21
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I'd get my Congressman on this. They have some sway of government agencies. I'd also get my Senator on it if he wasn't Schumer or his protege Gillenbrand!
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Old April 9, 2013, 07:04 PM   #22
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Rodent, happy to try and help get you answers. Check your email on this site for my contact info.
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Old April 9, 2013, 08:21 PM   #23
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First I would see an attorney then your Congressman and Senator. They know they can snowball you as long as they want but they can't snowball an attorney, Congressman, and Senator for long. Also contact the Sheriff (not the Sheriff's Office) personally and advise him of your situation. He may be able to help grease the wheels a bit. If not add his name to the list your attorney, Congressman, and Senator may wish to talk to.
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Old April 10, 2013, 07:43 AM   #24
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I guess its not really a factor any more since you moved so far away, but you probably had a simple small claims court remedy against the gunsmith who had custody of the property at the time it was stolen.
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Old April 10, 2013, 08:24 AM   #25
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TimSr
...you probably had a simple small claims court remedy against the gunsmith who had custody of the property at the time it was stolen.
For what? Being burglarized?

Short answer is that no, there's no good claim against the gunsmith -- unless the OP can prove complicity with the thief or gross negligence.
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