SALT LAKE CITY – Federal prosecutors in Utah indict a Las Vegas man who reportedly lied to buy guns by the hundreds. Investigators say those guns are connected to illegal drugs and murders in other states.
Gregory Nelson is facing 11 charges, including making false statements during the acquisition of a firearm, dealing in firearms without a license and travel within the US with intent to violate federal law. Prosecutors say Nelson had driven from Las Vegas to Utah to buy weapons, then lied on his ATF application.
John Huber, the US Attorney for Utah, says, “He has to say, ‘I’m purchasing this gun for me.’ He promises, under penalty of the law, that’s the truth.”
However, Huber says Nelson was actually a straw buyer who would then resell the guns to other people. Nelson reportedly bought 283 weapons in 2020, with 171 of them being purchased just between July and August. Investigators first got wind of this alleged plot when gun store operators told authorities about Nelson’s suspicious purchases.
“When you see 147 guns of the same type and style, those assigns to firearms licensees, the businessmen and women [that make them think], ‘Oh, that seems a little bit odd,’” Huber says.
Investigators say Nelson spent roughly $176 thousand on these weapons, and they believe that’s a conservative estimate.
Huber adds, “What really brings our attention to this… the ‘red flag’ here is the ‘time to crime.’”
That means the guns were purchased then used in possible crimes in a very short amount of time. In one case, Huber says a firearm was found at a crime scene in California just two days after Nelson reportedly bought it.
“We have 19 guns recovered in California in criminal investigations, including homicide investigations. The time between those guns being purchased and being recovered at crime scenes is short,” Huber says.
Some of the crimes Nelson’s guns are reportedly connected to include:
- A DEA narcotics investigation in California on August 27th.
- A murder investigation in Walnut Creek, CA, on July 7th
- A double-homicide investigation in East Palo Alto, CA, on August 2nd
Huber says each count of making a false state during the acquisition of a firearm carries a potential sentence of 10 years in federal prison, but he doesn’t believe the judge will stack those sentences.