Eitan Feldman, 28, bought and sold a whole lot of guns without running background checks on his customers. Some of those guns later turned up at crime scenes, including a shots-fired incident, a gun-pointing assault, a drug raid, and a drug trafficking stop of 50 pounds of Californian pot bound for Minnesota.
Technically, Feldman didn’t have anything to do with those crimes. He passed his own background checks to purchase. And he wasn't legally obligated to background check would-be criminals before giving them guns.
As a private citizen, Feldman isn’t bound to the same rules as licensed firearm dealers running gun stores, which have to run background checks according to federal law.
From January 2014 to January 2016, Feldman purchased and resold about 41 guns to strangers. He’d buy them from Gunbroker.com, an auction site, and then re-post them on Armslist.com – a Craigslist for guns. He’d exchange weapons for cash in mall parking lots, no questions asked, according to his eventual indictment.
Noticing a suspicious link between Feldman and the crime guns, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) looked up Feldman's purchase records. The agent found that Feldman committed a small paperwork violation – he’d listed his address as a different location in St. Paul than where he actually lived.
ATF agents then served Feldman with a warning. Because Feldman apparently sold firearms rapidly after acquiring them – about two to 25 days – and because those firearms appeared at crime scenes very shortly after his private resales, he was basically acting like a dealer. That meant he should have been federally licensed, and he should have been running background checks on buyers.
According to the indictment, Feldman ignored the warning and continued to buy and sell firearms at a rate that suggested he was running a personal business.
In early December, an undercover agent bought a Taurus .38-caliber revolver from Feldman for $260 in a mall parking lot. Feldman lied and said he was a gun collector who'd owned the gun for about three months before deciding to trade it in. In fact, he’d acquired the gun only nine days prior.
The undercover agent told Feldman that he was also interested in buying another Taurus. Feldman promised to see what he could do about that order.
The following month, a second undercover agent purchased a Hi-Point 9mm rifle from Feldman, again in a mall parking lot. Feldman said he’d owned the gun for at least four months – he’d actually purchased it just seven days before the sale.
Feldman didn’t care to ask either agents for ID, according to the indictment.
Investigators probably suspected this guy was a straw purchaser for a while, but weren't able to shut him down because of the difficulty in finding evidence he wasn't just an average gun hobbyist.