In a surprise development, an ex-CEO for a California security firm pleaded guilty this week to his role in a pay-to-play scheme in which his employees received coveted concealed carry permits in exchange for a campaign contribution to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s reelection campaign, according to The Mercury News.
Christian West was the CEO of AS Solutions, a high-profile security firm that handled protection for Facebook and Google executives. As GunsAmerica reported previously, employees at AS Solutions have been under investigation for donating $45,000 to long-time Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith in exchange for concealed carry permits.
Though Smith has yet to face any charges, investigators have charged four people in connection with the scheme, including one of Smith’s captains, James Jensen. West had been charged with two separate felony conspiracy counts, but his charges have been downgraded to misdemeanors in exchange for his cooperation, Mercury News reports.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen has not said whether his office is close to indicting Smith, but he did tell reporters that he expects to file more charges.
“As we gather more evidence, we expect to file more charges against more individuals in the coming weeks. We are not done,” he said.
According to the grand jury indictment, Jensen got connected with AS Solutions via a local gun parts manufacturer named Michael Nichols and attorneys Harpaul Nahal and Christopher Schumb. Nichols owns The Gun Company, which sells custom CZ and Glock handguns.
Schumb encouraged AS Solutions manager Martin Nielsen to meet up with Jensen at a S.W.A.T. competition called “Best in the West” hosted by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.
Nichols introduced Nielsen to Jensen, and they agreed in principle to the pay-to-play CCW scheme.
Jensen, Nahal, Schumb, and Nichols have all been charged with felonies related to bribery, conspiracy, and falsifying records.
Nielsen, whose initial $45,000 check spurred the investigation, has not been charged, according to Mercury News, but he has been cooperating with investigators and helping gather evidence against the defendants.
Gun owners have long suspected “may-issue” gun permit localities are rife with abuse and incompetence. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office has been one of the most high-profile examples, and the problems go beyond corruption. Along with the pay-to-play scheme, the office suffered from a “haphazard” approval process with “inconsistent criteria” for who received the rarely-issued weapons permits, according to public information officer testimony obtained by Mercury News.
While other counties like Sacramento County has issued more than 5,000 permits, Santa Clara County has only issued or renewed about 150.