ATF Contractor Gets 14 Years for Stealing Over 4,500 Firearms and Firearm Parts

The man plead guilty to the thefts that had been taking place since 2016. (Photo: ATF Facebook)

A former security guard for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has been sentenced to 14 years in prison along with three years of supervised release for stealing thousands of firearms and parts from a West Virginia firearms destruction facility, local media reported this week.

Christopher Lee Yates, 52, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, admitted to having stolen the firearms from an ATF facility from 2016 to when he was caught earlier this year. The contract worker used his access to the firearm destruction area to steal and sell over 4,500 firearms and parts, including 60 pistols, 120 rifles, four automatic machine guns and three components to make rocket launchers.

Yates entered a guilty plea and received a four-year sentence for theft of government property and a ten-year sentence for possession of a stolen firearm. The judge also ordered Yates to obtain treatment for a gambling addiction and prohibited him from entering casinos.

In his statements at the sentencing and to probation, Yates claimed that he stole the firearms because he “gave into his vanity” and wanted to feel important. He added that he turned his back on God and those close to him, but he couldn’t stop stealing.

SEE ALSO: LAPD, ATF Seize Over 1,000 Firearms from Los Angeles Man Accused of Illegal Possession of Assault Weapons

While he claimed that he didn’t know all the rules pertaining to firearms, he said he wanted to accept responsibility for that lack of knowledge.

Firearms linked to Yates have been recovered in 49 states, in Mexico and the Caribbean, and at crime scenes. When GunsAmerica reported on this story earlier this year, the ATF refused to say how many of the stolen firearms and parts had been recovered. At the sentencing hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Finucane told the judge that the bureau had recovered 4,625 of the items in question.

Despite Yates’ tearful statement, Chief U.S. District Judge Gina Groh questioned the authenticity of the defendant’s remorse. She called Yates’ crime “very, very serious in nature” and noted that Yates failed to apologize to the communities he exposed to violent crime by putting firearms back into circulation.

Finucane told the judge that the ATF’s policies for storing and destroying firearms aren’t to blame. The ATF’s real mistake was allowing Yates unfettered access to the facility.

SEE ALSO: ATF: Gun Dealers Cannot Transfer Firearms to Genderqueers Who Fail to Check ‘Male’ or ‘Female’ on 4473s

The defense called witnesses who testified to Yates character, gambling addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder. His lawyers asked the judge to “take into account the entirety of this man’s life” when determining the sentence.

Yates didn’t help his case by lying to ATF agents and failing to admit guilt until presented with evidence, ATF Special Agent Seth Cox told the judge. Cox also said that Yates hadn’t helped with the recovery efforts and had been uncooperative in the ATF investigation of the gun dealer who bought much of what Yates stole.

The judge revoked Yates’ bond and placed him in the custody of U.S. Marshals at the conclusion of Monday’s hearing, ruling that he posed a danger to himself.

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • John Silvey June 19, 2020, 9:46 pm

    Yep … I know somebody who bought a few parts (innocently) off of this guy’s eBay site. BATF agents showed up at his house (via eBay / PayPal records). The parts were not those with S/N’s on them, so they weren’t traceable. He could have lied … told them that he had sold them, etc., but didn’t. Wanted no problems with BATF …. handed them over w/o argument and took it in the shorts …

  • Bob Rovak August 30, 2019, 9:06 pm

    These are the people we need to put away. He did not know the regulations, B.S. If…. he has disorders, he should be in a hospital. NOT stealing and selling guns. This is where the bad guys get them duuhhh!

  • JOEL TURNER August 30, 2019, 2:23 pm

    You would think the U-Haul truck that he drove to work every day might have been a red flag, LOL! This was not a sneak the stuff out in your lunch box crime.

  • Brian August 30, 2019, 12:25 pm

    Apparently he figured since Obama and Holder were peddling automatic weapons to the mexican cartels in Operation Fast & Furious, he could do the same thing and sell ATF seized weapons and parts to Americans, Apparently there are different laws for different folks,eh?

    • Christopher Chason August 30, 2019, 4:43 pm

      Yup. Sounds more like he RESCUED some good equipment from destruction.

    • Archangel August 30, 2019, 9:41 pm

      Apparently Brian does not know how to count, so let’s help the poor idiot out, shall we?
      Obama was elected President January 20th 2009.
      The whole gun running thing started in early 2006 by the ATF, a whole 3 years before Obama was elected as your President.

      “Gunwalking”, or “letting guns walk”, was a tactic of the Arizona Field Office of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which ran a series of sting operations between 2006 and 2011 in the Tucson and Phoenix area where the ATF “purposely allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers, hoping to track the guns to Mexican drug cartel leaders and arrest them” and eventually became known in February 2010 as “Operation Fast and Furious” after agents discovered Chambers and the other suspects under investigation belonged to a car club.

      • FALPhil August 31, 2019, 11:03 am

        Apparently Archangel has a reading comprehension problem, so let’s help the idiot out.

        “Fast and Furious” was an official operation that ran from 2009 to 2011. Prior to the Fast and Furious operation, which was part of Project Gunrunner, which was started in 2006, another operation was run, and it was called “Wide Receiver”. Wide receiver did not get much publicity because it was such a failure. Fast and Furious is associated with the Obama administration, because, as an operation, it was initiated and run by the Obama administration.

        I think you should apologize to Brian.

      • Phillip September 7, 2019, 9:58 am

        Thanks for providing FACTS and not political bull shit……a rare idea…..this plan was stupid at best….who approved should be fired .

  • Linda Johnson August 30, 2019, 8:00 am

    I think that he deserves the death penalty.

  • C J August 30, 2019, 7:43 am

    And I have to wait 9 plus months & pay a BS $200 tax for these idiots to approve a suppressor that I can legally own? Gimme a break!

  • Alan August 30, 2019, 7:23 am

    It should have been a consecutive 10 year sentence for each stolen firearm.

  • perlcat August 30, 2019, 6:42 am

    I would imagine he did it one piece at a time, and it didn’t cost him a dime. (until he got caught)

  • Steve D. August 29, 2019, 2:38 pm

    Reading between the lines – the ATF has no idea how many firearms/parts he stole, only that they recovered 4625 (most likely individually counted parts, as that number in actual guns would fill a warehouse).

    • Son_of_Liberty August 30, 2019, 9:23 am

      They also said he admitted to no knowing ATF regulations. If that’s the case, how was he contracted by the ATF? So apparently they just let anyone work there.

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