SOUTHINGTON - A Southington man who prosecutors say was assembling ghost guns and selling them over the Internet was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Friday.
Hao Quac Lam, 24, of 35 Darling St., Apt. Q, accepted a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to one count each of carrying a pistol without a permit and illegal possession of a large capacity magazine, during a hearing in Bristol Superior Court.
Lam was arrested Nov. 20 after authorities from multiple agencies searched his apartment and a local storage unit, following up on an anonymous tip that led them to believe someone was trying to sell an assault rifle. Police found two assault rifles, a handgun without a permit and 29 high capacity magazines.
State prosecutor Jeffrey Lee said one of the difficulties in Lam's case was proving that the 29 high capacity magazines were acquired before April 5, 2013, when a ban on them took effect in Connecticut. Individuals who acquired them before then could be subject to an infraction, while those who acquired them after that date face a felony, Lee added.
"We don't have proof of that," Lee said.
A computer seized in the investigation could have potentially proven that the magazines were shipped to Lam after the ban, but the state lab had yet to examine it as of Friday, Lee said.
Lam was sentenced on Friday to 10 years in prison, suspended after service of 18 months, and three years of probation. Lee agreed to drop a number of charges in the plea deal, including two counts of possession of an assault weapon and 28 counts of possession of a high capacity magazine. Part of the deal required Lam to stipulate to the allegation that he acquired the magazines after they were banned.
Lee added that Lam will likely be deported back to Vietnam because of this conviction.
"He may be thrown out of our country, and that's not my problem," the prosecutor continued.
According to Lee, Lam was 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. Ghost guns are virtually untraceable.
"He was selling arms," Lee said Friday.
Prior to the search on Nov. 20, police said, 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.
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.
As part of the plea deal, Lam agreed to forfeit the money he had on him to the state.
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or firstname.lastname@example.org.