Three plead guilty to stealing weapon caches throughout SoCal, including 35 guns in Valencia

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Three men have been convicted in federal court for their connection to an illegal firearm theft and selling ring that operated around Southern California and who at one point stole 35 guns from a storage locker in Valencia.  

According to federal law enforcement officials, the second man involved in the scheme, Rick Herst, 36, of Reseda, was sentenced Wednesday to 9.5 years in prison for his connection to the various gun thefts. 

His accomplice Alan Elperin, 31, of Mission Hills, was sentenced to more than eight years in prison and their third accomplice, James LaFraniere, 39, of Van Nuys, is set to be sentenced on May 26. 

The men, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, all pleaded guilty after being suspected of conspiring together to steal and sell guns from December 2018 to September 2019. They reportedly burglarized multiple storage units in Glendale, Valencia, Culver City, West Los Angeles, Northridge, Culver City, Thousand Oaks, Rancho Mirage and elsewhere, stealing firearms and other valuables. 

“They offered the stolen firearms for sale to customers either in person or via text message,” prosecutors said. “LaFraniere and Herst sold the firearms to buyers they knew were convicted felons.” 

In the incident connected to a self-storage facility in Valencia, the trio stole 35 firearms, including multiple .45-caliber pistols, 12-gauge shotguns and high-powered rifles.  

“On the same day as the Valencia burglary, LaFraniere and Herst sold two of the stolen firearms – a .45-caliber pistol and a .40-caliber pistol – to a buyer whom they knew was a convicted felon,” said prosecutors.  

At the time of his arrest in March 2020, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Herst’s residence and found one of multiple weapons stolen during a January 2020 residential burglary, 14 shotgun shells, 95 rounds of .38-caliber ammunition, more than 30 stolen debit and credit cards, multiple stolen or fake California driver’s licenses, and a large quantity of stolen merchandise belonging to various burglary victims. 

“Although many guns have not been recovered, those that have were largely found in the hands of felons or recovered at crime scenes,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. 

Elperin pleaded guilty in November 2020 to one count of conspiracy and one count of receiving stolen firearms and is now serving a 100-month federal prison sentence.  

LaFraniere pleaded guilty in September 2020 to one count of conspiracy, one count of receiving stolen firearms and one count of selling firearms to a felon. At his upcoming sentencing hearing, he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison. 

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