On January 19, 2023, the United States filed a civil complaint in federal court in Brooklyn against two firearm companies, and two individuals associated with these companies (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging that Defendants have conspired to defraud the United States and consumers, and have engaged in the ongoing commission of mail fraud and wire fraud, by unlawfully selling machine gun conversion devices. The devices, called FRT-15s, are specifically designed and intended to be used to convert AR-15 type rifles into machineguns and are therefore themselves “machineguns” under federal law. With limited exceptions not applicable to Defendants’ conduct, the manufacture, sale and possession of machine guns is illegal under the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act of 1968. The Government’s complaint seeks injunctive relief under the Anti-Fraud Injunction Act. The United States also sought a temporary order immediately halting any sales of the FRT-15 or any forced reset trigger until and unless otherwise ordered by the Court. On January 25, 2023, United States District Judge Nina R. Morrison entered a temporary restraining order against Defendants.
Merrick B. Garland, United States Attorney General; Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Steven Dettelbach, Director, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); and John B. DeVito, Special Agent-in-Charge, ATF, New York Field Division, announced the filing of the complaint.
“The Justice Department has filed a complaint against two firearm companies and two individuals who we allege are illegally selling machineguns, conspiring to violate federal firearm laws, and committing mail and wire fraud” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today, we obtained a temporary restraining order that immediately stops the defendants from illegally selling their machineguns. The Justice Department will continue to do everything in its power to protect the American people from gun violence and to hold accountable those that flood our communities with illegal guns.”
“The defendants are illegally selling machine guns, plain and simple, with conversion devices that transform AR-15 type rifles into even more lethal weapons suited for battlefields, not our communities,” said United States Attorney Peace. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to stop the flow of illegal and deadly weapons onto our streets. The United States will be relentless in employing every means available, including all civil tools, to end violence in New York and across the nation.”
ATF Director Dettelbach stated: “Decades ago, Congress determined that machine guns are illegal, yet, despite repeated warnings, the defendants in this case are alleged to be flouting the law. Machine guns are unlawful because they pose a threat to the public and they are increasingly a risk to law enforcement. Ensuring that individuals and companies comply with the prohibition on selling machine guns is just one of many steps ATF is taking to address violent crime and protect our communities.”
“These machine gun conversion devices—which are machine guns under federal law—can turn any semi-automatic AR-type firearm into a weapon capable of shooting at a rate of fire similar to or exceeding that of an M16 machine gun manufactured for military use. Since 1934, machineguns have been subject to strict federal controls, and since 1986, machineguns have been subject to an outright prohibition. These defendants are believed to have earned millions at the expense of the public’s safety and are alleged to have conspired to undermine these very federal laws which are intended to keep the public safe. I would like to thank the United States Attorney’s Office and ATF personnel for their hard work and commitment in securing the temporary restraining order,” stated ATF Special Agent-in-Charge DeVito.
Defendants are Rare Breed Triggers, LLC and Rare Breed Firearms, LLC (collectively, “RBT”) and their owner/operators Lawrence DeMonico, also known as “Larry R. Lee, Jr.” and Kevin Maxwell. As alleged in the complaint, Defendants have unlawfully sold thousands of FRT-15s to the general public. In the process, Defendants have sought to obstruct ATF’s mandate to enforce laws prohibiting the sale of machine guns and ensure public safety. Defendants have also allegedly misled consumers about the legality of FRT-15s.
As set forth in the January 25, 2023 temporary restraining order (“TRO”), among other things, the Court found that “[t]here is probable cause to believe that Defendants’ fraudulent conduct is ongoing and imminent,” that “Defendants failed to register FRT-15s for the purpose of concealing from ATF the sale and transfer of these items,” and that the TRO is necessary to prevent “a continuing and substantial injury to the United States, as well as to past and future purchasers of FRT-15s who have been or may be misled into believing that their possession of FRT-15s is lawful when it is not.”
This action is part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York’s Civil Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence. The EDNY’s Civil Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence was created in 2022. The EDNY’s Civil Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence aims to work with federal, state, and local officials, as well as community stakeholders, to address the root causes of gun-related crime, and supports reform efforts made across the government. The EDNY’s Civil Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence complements the EDNY Criminal Division’s prosecution of gun-related crimes. The Office also works collaboratively on the Initiative with the Consumer Protection Branch of the Department of Justice.
The government’s case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Blume, Joseph Marutollo and Paulina Stamatelos of the Office’s Civil Division with assistance from ATF’s Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Matthew Myerson.