Straw purchaser: someone with a valid gun license that obtains firearms for someone who doesn’t and is looking to use that firearm for a crime.
That’s the case behind the arrest of a Port Coquitlam man involved in a firearms trafficking investigation by a B.C. specialized police unit.
Alex Lytle has since been released from custody, but is waiting for the court process to begin as he’s been charged five times under the criminal code for events dating back to mid-2020.
The 31-year-old man, as well as 26-year-old Harjot Chahal of Pitt Meadows, were arrested last year after the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC) seized several firearms from a home and a storage locker via a pair of search warrants.
- Three handguns, one of which had the serial number tampered with
- Two shotguns
- Two rifles
- One SKS semi-automatic rifle
- One CZ Scorpion semi-automatic rifle
- Various ammunition
- High capacity magazines
- Police-related equipment…
- police hats
- shoulder flashes
- vest and collapsible baton
- starter pistol
According to police, in mid-2020, a Lower Mainland firearms retailer reported a suspicious purchase by two men, believing the license-holder was being used as a “straw purchaser” after he appeared to be directed by the other to buy firearms and ammunition.
An investigation into the allegations commenced, revealing that the non-license-wielding man was also prohibited from possessing any firearms.
Police explain the purchaser “also bought several other firearms in the past year.”
One of the men was later arrested in early September as part of the investigation; officers recovered a single firearm at the time and later seized several other items after executing two search warrants (listed above).
Lytle has been charged with the following:
- Four counts = Possession of a firearm contrary to an order (prohibition)
- One count = Possession of a loaded/restricted firearm
Chahal has been charged with one count of trafficking a firearm and one of offer to traffic a firearm.
STRAW PURCHASING CAN THREATEN PUBLIC SAFETY
CFSEU-BC is warning law-abiding gun owners to not put themselves in a similar situation when it comes to buying a gun for someone else to use.
According to the unit, typical “straw purchasers” have no previous criminal record and are often recruited to those who wish to use a firearm for crime-related purposes.
It adds situations like these pose a big threat to public safety.
“Do not be used by criminals looking to secure firearms to be used in crimes,” says CFSEU-BC Superintendent Duncan Pound in a news release today (June 10), noting firearms, when legally purchased, can be trafficked or even sold to criminal markets.
“The Crime Guns Intelligence and Investigations Group (CGIIG) within CFSEU-BC is working with firearms retailers, the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team and the Chief Firearms Officer to aggressively pursue straw purchasers and criminals linked to them. If you have any information about suspicious firearms purchasers please contact your local police.”
Led by RCMP, its National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST) says it’s seen more straw purchasing situations reported in the past 18 months.