Two charged in 3D-printed guns investigation
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Two more people have been arrested and charged with trafficking “ghost guns” in Manitoba.
Investigators believe a “criminal network” manufacturing and distributing firearms made with plastic receivers and assembled with factory-made working parts solicited a legitimate 3D-printing service to cobble together so-called “ghost guns,” as they do not have serial numbers and can’t be traced.
Jashon Anthony Fernando, 23, and Blake James Ellison-Crate, 24, were already incarcerated, but now face new weapons trafficking charges, after an investigation into the production of 3D-printed guns between June and December 2022.
Both men remain in custody.
The investigation brought on the Canada Border Services Agency, because some parts for these weapons are often brought across the border from the United States, Winnipeg Police Service Const. Dani McKinnon said Wednesday. Some parts are purchased from legitimate gun dealers and used in illegal firearms.
“They’re dangerous,” she said. “They operate exactly like a real gun, because they are a real gun. The Glocks that are made by 3D printers look exactly like a regular Glock (handgun) does.”
Fernando was previously arrested after a man pointed a 3D-printed gun during an altercation at Polo Park shopping centre Dec. 17. He was charged with firearm possession offences and failing to comply with the conditions of a release order.
Ellison-Crate was previously charged with five counts of weapons manufacturing and trafficking, two counts each of identity theft, identity fraud and possession contrary to an order, and possession of a prohibited device, after a search warrant was executed on a home on the 100 block of Prevette Avenue in July 2022.
He was also charged with participating in or consenting to making false statements under the Customs Act, after investigators said he bought firearm parts in Calgary and Montreal using a disguised identity.
At the time of Ellison-Crate’s earlier arrest, WPS organized crime unit Insp. Elton Hall said investigators believed he was part of a larger criminal network.
In 2020, Winnipeg police seized 28 firearms from a home on the 100 block of West Avenue, including a Glock handgun made by a 3D printer. A 3D printer was on site and was also seized, police said at the time.
Corey James Boyd, 31, was arrested and charged with weapons trafficking, knowingly possessing an unauthorized firearm, and not reporting a lost firearm.
In 2022, 14 3D-printed guns and eight ghost guns made from American receiver manufacturer Polymer 80 parts were seized by police. This number could be just a fraction of how many 3D guns are being circulated in Winnipeg, police said.
“Investigators certainly are aware of the potential magnitude that there are many more ghost guns being circulated throughout the criminal element,” McKinnon said Wednesday.
In another case, Ryan Buhler, of the Rural Municipality of Hanover, was sentenced to three years in prison (the mandatory minimum), after pleading guilty to trafficking illegal firearms last year.
The CBSA had intercepted a package in Mississauga, Ont., meant for Buhler, containing metal gun parts. He owned a 3D printer and had printed two frames for a Glock-type semi-automatic handgun, officials said.
The fact such firearms are untraceable, McKinnon said, is “probably the lesser of the two evils.”
“Any time that guns are manufactured with 3D printing, as opposed to factory and true manufacturing, the integrity of the firearm can greatly be compromised,” she said. “It can be even more unpredictable than a factory produced firearm.”
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.