Los Angeles, California - A San Fernando Valley man has been arrested on federal charges alleging he and two other men broke into self-storage units in Los Angeles County, stole dozens of firearms, and sold at least some of the weapons to convicted felons.
Rick Eric Herst, 34, a.k.a. “Loyal,” of Reseda, was taken into federal custody Monday by special agents with the FBI and deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Herst was arrested pursuant to an eight-count indictment that was unsealed at his arraignment late Monday in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, and a May 19 trial date was set.
Herst is named in the indictment along with Jeffrey James LaFraniere, 37, of the San Fernando Valley, and Alan Elperin, 29, of Mission Hills, both of whom were arrested by local law enforcement in June 2019 on separate cases and are now in federal custody.
All three defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of dealing firearms without a license, and two counts of selling stolen firearms.
In addition to these charges, LaFraniere and Herst face charges of selling firearms to convicted felons, and each being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The indictment alleges that from December 2018 to September 2019, LaFraniere, Herst and Elperin burglarized multiple self-storage units in Glendale, Valencia, Culver City, West Los Angeles and elsewhere, where they stole firearms and other valuables. The men allegedly offered the stolen firearms for sale to customers either in person or via text message. LaFraniere and Herst sold the firearms to buyers they knew were convicted felons, according to the indictment.
For example, on May 30, 2019, the men allegedly burglarized a self-storage facility in Valencia and stole 35 firearms, including multiple .45-caliber pistols, 12-gauge shotguns, and high-powered rifles, the indictment alleges. On the same day as the Valencia burglary, LaFraniere and Herst allegedly sold two of the stolen firearms – a .45-caliber pistol and a .40-caliber pistol – to a buyer.
In total, the defendants stole 47 firearms, according to the indictment.
LaFraniere has multiple felony convictions in Los Angeles Superior Court between July 2007 and August 2016 for offenses such as burglary, identity theft and possession of methamphetamine for sale, according to the indictment. Herst’s criminal history includes two felony convictions in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2009 for vehicle theft, the indictment states.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted of all charges, LaFraniere and Herst would face a statutory maximum sentence of 60 years in federal prison, and Elperin would face a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison.
This case was investigated by the FBI Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ian V. Yanniello of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section.