Update 5/20/22 – Rick Herst was sentenced to nine years and seven months in federal prison on Wednesday for his role in stealing dozens of firearms from Southern California self-storage facilities and knowingly selling some of them to convicted felons. Though he initially claimed he was innocent, Herst pleaded guilty in February 2021 to one count of conspiracy to traffic in firearms and one count of selling firearms to a convicted felon. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald, according to a source.
“The harm defendant caused is not just the theft and resale of these deadly weapons; the gravity of offense is who he knowingly sold the weapons to—criminals,” reads the government’s sentencing memorandum. “Although many guns have not been recovered, those that have were largely found in the hands of felons or recovered at crime scenes.”
At the time of the burglaries and gun sales, Herst was out on bond facing felony charges for “beating a man with a baseball bat,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Prosecutors characterized Herst’s criminal behavior over two decades as victimizing “countless people,” with cases resulting in 18 convictions, including 13 felonies.
Herst’s accomplices in the burglary and gun scheme, Alan Elperin and Jeffrey James LaFraniere, have also pleaded guilty in their cases. Elperin was sentenced last year to 100 months in prison. LaFraniere’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 26. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison, according to a source.
3/26/20 – Three men are facing federal charges in connection with firearms that were stolen from multiple Los Angeles self-storage facilities between December 2018 and September 2019. A total of 47 weapons were reported as stolen from locations in Culver City, Glendale, Valencia, West Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Some were later sold to convicted felons, according to the source.
The May 30 theft at a Valencia self-storage facility involved 35 firearms, including multiple .45-caliber pistols, 12-gauge shotguns and high-powered rifles. Two of the pilfered guns, a .45-caliber pistol and a .40-caliber pistol, were sold the same day as the burglary, an indictment alleges.
Alan Elperin, 29, Rick Eric Herst, 34, and Jeffrey James LaFraniere, 37, were charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of dealing firearms without a license, and two counts of selling stolen firearms. Herst and LaFraniere also face charges of selling firearms to convicted felons and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Herst was apprehended on Monday, while Elperin and LaFraniere have been in police custody since June for separate cases. All three are now in federal custody. If convicted on all charges, Herst and LaFraniere face a maximum sentence of 60 years, while Elperin could get up to 30.
Herst has pleaded not guilty to the charges and a May 19 trial date has been set. He has two felony convictions in Los Angeles in 2009 for vehicle theft. LaFraniere has multiple felony convictions in Los Angeles between July 2007 and August 2016 for burglary, identity theft and possession of methamphetamines for sale, the indictment stated.
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