World / Crime & Legal

More than 1,000 guns seized at posh Los Angeles mansion

AFP-JIJI

A weapons cache of more than 1,000 firearms and ammunition was seized in a raid on a multimillion-dollar mansion in an upmarket neighborhood of Los Angeles, law enforcement authorities said Thursday.

The seizure came following an anonymous tip that firearms were being sold illegally out of the home, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) said.

The house, which is mostly hidden from the street by high hedges, is located in the exclusive Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles, near the famed Playboy Mansion and less than a mile from the home of music industry power couple Jay-Z and Beyonce.

A law enforcement source said the home belongs to Cynthia Beck, who has three children with Gordon Getty, the son of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty.

Beck reportedly has had a longtime relationship with Girard Damien Saenz, the man who amassed the weapons and who was arrested at the home on suspicion of possessing, selling and manufacturing assault weapons.

Saenz, 57, who has not yet been formally charged, was released Thursday morning on $50,000 bail.

Video footage taken by local television stations showed Los Angeles police officers and ATF agents inspecting large piles of handguns and rifles outside the house.

Photos taken at the scene also showed boxes of ammunition stacked on a table inside the large house, which was cluttered with the weapons.

“It was a hoarder’s heaven,” the law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in describing the scene.

The local ABC news station said some of the guns were modern while others dated back 50 years or more. A few were even collectibles from the Civil War, it said.

Ginger Cobrun, a spokeswoman for the ATF, said that Saenz had a collector’s license but such a license does not allow a person to deal in firearms.

She said investigators are still processing the evidence before deciding what charges to file and whether they will be at the state or federal level.

“We will be tracing all the firearms to find out where they were purchased and who they were purchased by originally,” she said. “We will also be using ballistics to determine if some of the guns were used in crime.”

Los Angeles police lieutenant Chris Ramirez told reporters at the scene that it was “beyond comprehension” for someone to have so many weapons, especially in such a posh neighborhood.

“I’ve never seen so many weapons in my career of 31 years,” he said. “It’s kind of astounding.”

Authorities said it took some 30 law enforcement officers more than 15 hours — beginning at 4 a.m. on Wednesday — to clear the house and remove the weapons.

“Pursuant to an anonymous tip, ATF and LAPD became aware of an individual conducting illegal firearms (transactions) outside the scope of the federal firearm license that the individual possesses,” Cobrun said, adding that there was no reason to “believe the public is in any danger.”

Beck, who is said to be living in Europe, could not be reached for comment.

The Times said Beck and Saenz together own several properties in the Los Angeles area and an office building in San Francisco.