SOUTHINGTON - Police have arrested a local man after finding him with two assault rifles, a handgun without a permit and 29 high capacity magazines following a search of his apartment and a local storage unit - leading state prosecutors to believe he was assembling “ghost guns” and selling them on the Internet.
Quac Hao Lam, 24, of 35 Darling St., Apt. Q, was arrested after local police, state police, the area SWAT team and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms searched his apartment on Tuesday. Police were able to get a search warrant for the apartment after an anonymous tip led them to believe someone was trying to sell an assault rifle.
Lam was held in custody and arraigned Wednesday, in Bristol Superior Court, where Judge John Cronan said he was “really frightened” by the allegations.
State prosecutor Jeffrey Lee went a step further than Cronan, calling Lam’s matter “the most dangerous” he has dealt with since Cronan began presiding as the judge in Bristol last year. Lee asked that bail be set at $1 million, saying Lam is bringing in parts of guns from out of state and using them to assemble assault rifles with no serial numbers - also known as ghost guns - in his apartment and selling them over the Internet. A ghost gun, Lee continued, is “virtually untraceable.”
“His is the most dangerous case I’ve dealt with, with you,” Lee told the judge, before Cronan agreed to the prosecutor’s request and set Lam’s bail at $1 million.
Prior to the search Tuesday, police wrote in their report, Lam was patted down in the parking lot of his apartment and found in possession of a Sig Sauer handgun, three fully loaded magazines and $20,952 in his pocket. Lam, according to police, admitted that he owned six rifles and brought police to a storage unit on Spring Street, where he said they were located. Lam, the report said, told officers the cash he had was his life savings, as he doesn’t trust banks, and that he makes money by selling things online.
Police said the storage unit contained a short barreled “AR-15 type” weapon without a stock or a serial number and another gun that was later determined to fit the state’s criteria for an assault weapon. Inside the unit, police also found two 12 gauge shotguns, two .22 caliber rifles and a 7.62 mm rifle. These weapons were registered to Lam. Police said they also seized “assorted calibers of ammunition,” 11 high capacity magazines, two boxes and two belts of shotgun shells and four .22 caliber magazines.
Lam’s apartment also had four incomplete assault rifle lower receiver parts, five semi automatic handguns, two tasers, body armor, “assorted high capacity magazines” for handguns, over 1,000 rounds of ammunition, a drill press and tools that were used to build firearms.
Lam faces one count of possession of a handgun without a permit, two counts of possession of an assault weapon and 29 counts of possession of a high capacity magazine. He had originally been charged with only one count of possession of an assault weapon while investigators worked to determine if a gun seized during the investigation met the statute requirements. Lee added the additional count during Lam’s arraignment on Wednesday.
According to the police report, investigators received a tip on Sept. 12 that indicated someone in Southington was trying to sell an assault weapon on a website called Armslist.com. A post on the website said the gun had no serial number and would be sold for $650 with no paperwork required.
Investigators communicated with the seller via email, discussing “price, payment and the manufacturing of the firearm,” according to the report. Using grand jury subpoenas, investigators traced the email address back to Lam. They also found an associated Youtube account that showed a man displaying firearms - including one that appeared to be the gun that was for sale - ammunition and body armor.
“This is all really, really bad,” Lee said.
The state prosecutor added that Lam “violated just about every” law that was passed after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown.
Lam, who does not have a criminal history, is due back in court on Dec. 6. He will learn on that date whether his case will be prosecuted in Bristol or transferred to a higher court.
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or firstname.lastname@example.org.