A Northridge gun dealer has been acquitted of charges that he cheated customers--many of them law enforcement officers--by taking money for assault rifles and handguns that were never delivered.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated about three hours before finding Wayne Alvarez, 33, not guilty of 13 counts of grand theft involving an equal number of law enforcement officers, who, prosecutors said, purchased the guns at phony discount prices but did not receive the weapons.
A 14th grand theft count was dismissed by Judge David A. Thomas at the end of the two-week trial Monday because the victim did not testify.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Glenn Sommers, who prosecuted the case, said jurors did not believe the testimony of Officer Craig M. Crosby of the Los Angeles Police Department or Officer Lon Hardy of the Los Angeles school district police, both of whom moonlighted selling guns for Alvarez.
The officers testified that they stopped taking orders and began reimbursing officers when they learned that Alvarez was purchasing guns from retailers at a higher price than the discount price he was offering.
Defense attorney Thomas H. Russell said jurors probably believed the gun purchasers were victimized but felt that the two officers were just as culpable as Alvarez and would not convict the defendant based on their testimony.
"They hated the two guys," Russell said Wednesday. "We didn't have to put on a defense."
Investigators had accused Alvarez of defrauding the law enforcement officers by advertising the guns at discount prices but supplying only a few weapons. Authorities initially said that more than 1,000 officers were victimized.
Sommers said that only 14 counts were filed because the maximum sentence Alvarez could have received on eight counts of grand theft was 10 years and additional charges would not have resulted in a longer sentence.
Hardy and Crosby had to repay $217,000 to officers who ordered guns but did not receive them, Sommers said.