Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Table of contents
- Unregistered Conversions Lead to Conviction
- Bank Alert Triggered Investigation
- Important Product Disclaimer
- Covert Operations
- YouTube’s Role in The ‘Scheme ‘
- Feds Raid Uncovers Auto Key Card Operation
- Coordinated Effort Ends the Operation
- Comment from Special Agent in Charge
- ‘ Project Safe Neighborhoods’
- Your Thoughts?
Unregistered Conversions Lead to Conviction
Kristopher Justinboyer Ervin, 43, of Orange Park, Florida, has been sentenced to five years and eight months, while Matthew Raymond Hoover, 39, of Wisconsin, received a five-year sentence.
Conspiring to transfer — and transferring — unregistered machinegun conversion devices.
Bank Alert Triggered Investigation
The case began in January 2021 when Ervin’s bank alerted the ATF about possible illegal activity.
The investigation unveiled Ervin’s online business, selling alleged machinegun conversion devices dubbed, “Auto Key Cards.” They were marketed as “pen holders” and “novelties,” according to the Feds.
Important Product Disclaimer
The product description on the website accessed by GunsAmerica in 2021 directed users, “Do not cut or alter artwork in any way” and described the item as a “Business Logo Card, Great Conversation Piece, Artwork and Novelty.”
In the Terms of Service posted on autokeycards.com, the company told its customers, “You may not use our products for any illegal or unauthorized purpose nor may you, in the use of the Service, violate any laws in your jurisdiction.”
None of this was enough to protect Ervin or Hoover from prosecution.
ATF and USPIS agents watched Ervin drop off packages containing these devices at an Orange Park post office.
A lightning link, extracted from these cards, can be used to turn a legal AR-15 firearm into an automatic weapon, according to the ATF.
YouTube’s Role in The ‘Scheme‘
Investigators claim that Hoover’s YouTube channel, CRS Firearms, boosted the device’s sales.
By advertising the Auto Key Cards, the Feds say it led many to Ervin’s doorstep, contributing to over 2,000 sales in mere months.
The partnership was profitable; Hoover received cash and luxury items as compensation.
Feds Raid Uncovers Auto Key Card Operation
A March raid at Ervin’s residence revealed etchings for over 1,500 lightning links. In total, the duo’s operation involved around 6,600 individual lightning links.
However, defenders of Ervin and Hoover contend that the links were not drawn to scale. Therefore, they could not actually be used to convert a semi-auto firearm to a full auto firearm.
Moreover, they argue that the ATF failed to prove in court that the lightning links on the cards were a viable conversion means.
Defenders also suggest that the entire product was a joke designed to tweak the nose of the ATF.
Coordinated Effort Ends the Operation
ATF’s Jacksonville Field Office, in collaboration with various agencies, led this probe.
Kirk Howard, the Special Agent in Charge, stressed the importance of their collective work, ensuring that such “schemes” do not undermine federal firearms laws.
Comment from Special Agent in Charge
“Investigating this case required dedication and tenacity on behalf of ATF’s Jacksonville Field Office and our partner agencies on this matter—the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said Howard in a press release obtained by GunsAmerica.
“Our work was necessary to prove the true nature of the Auto Key Cards being sold by Ervin and Hoover and disrupt their audacious scheme to circumvent federal firearms laws,” he added.
‘Project Safe Neighborhoods’
This case is part of what the Feds call “Project Safe Neighborhoods” (PSN) – a unified initiative that brings communities and law enforcement together against violent crime.
For those in possession of an Auto Key Card, the ATF urges immediate surrender of the device for destruction.
It’s not clear at this point if those who surrender their cards or those who admit to possessing one will face prosecution as well.
What are your thoughts? Did Hoover and Ervin get a fair sentence for their alleged crimes?
Available on GunsAmerica Now