SALT LAKE CITY — A Las Vegas man bought nearly 300 guns in Utah to be illegally trafficked, some of which have now been linked to murders in California, according to federal prosecutors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah announced Wednesday that a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City has indicted Gregory Alan Nelson, 32, for allegedly making false statements to purchase 283 guns in the Beehive State in 2020.
Nelson was indicted on nine counts of making a false statement during the acquisition of a firearm, dealing in firearms without a license, and travel within the United States with intent to violate federal law prohibiting dealing in firearms without a license.
The indictment contends that Nelson falsely answered “yes” on the forms he filled out to the question of whether he was the actual gun buyer, according to a prepared statement from U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber.
“Using a conservative estimate, he spent about $176,000 on the guns, including 147 Glock pistols,” according to the statement.
“The time-to-crime evidence in this prosecution is troubling. Allegations portray hundreds of guns purchased in Utah, too many of which were later recovered in criminal investigations outside of Utah in a relatively short period of time,” Huber stated. “To be sure, these charges are serious as far as the potential consequences if he is found guilty of federal felonies. More serious, though, are the negative effects on public safety as a result of the conduct outlined in the allegations. Gun crime endangers our communities.”
Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began investigating Nelson in July after he purchased “a large number of similar firearms over a short period of time throughout Utah,” according to the statement. The transactions were suspicious “given the multiple purchases of firearms he was making and the different, potentially conflicting explanations he offered as he interacted with store employees during the transactions,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated.
The ATF also received a tip that Nelson was purchasing firearms in Utah and trafficking them in Las Vegas.
As of Oct. 9, ATF agents say 19 firearms purchased by Nelson have been recovered in California by local officers investigating a variety of crimes.
“One of the recovered firearms was used to commit a double murder,” according to the statement.
A second gun was recovered by authorities in California investigating another murder, authorities stated. The ATF believes that Nelson purchased guns from St. George to Orem.
If convicted, Nelson could be sentenced to up to 10 years in federal prison for each count of making a false statement to buy a firearm.