In a lawsuit styled “United States of America versus 594 assorted rifles,” federal prosecutors in Fort Worth are seeking the forfeiture of a stockpile of weapons seized in rural Texas from an unlicensed firearms dealer.
The 594 guns -- 30-caliber carbine M1 semi-automatic rifles -- were discovered in Carson County during a traffic stop Dec. 12, prosecutors said in court documents. News of the seizure had not been previously disclosed.
Carson County is located along Interstate 40 in the Texas Panhandle, just north of Amarillo.
The Texas Department of Public Safety turned the property over to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which began civil forfeiture proceedings.
No criminal charges have been filed.
Prosecutors said that Dale Thomas, of Minooka, Ill., claims to own the guns and has asked for their return. He bought them in Arizona for $192,600 and arranged for another man to drive them cross-country when his rented box truck was stopped along the interstate by a state trooper, the documents said.
The driver, identified as Edward Minnick, initially told the state trooper he was hauling furniture and junk in the back of the truck, which Thomas had rented in Phoenix, an ATF agent wrote in a sworn statement.
Thomas was a federally-licensed firearms dealer from 1981 to 2001. He arranged for another dealer to sell the guns for him since he was no longer authorized, the agent said.
Thomas’ attorney, Robert Sanders, of Winston-Salem, N.C., filed a claim for the property on Feb. 5, according to court papers.
Thomas, Minnick and the lawyer could not be reached for comment.
ATF special agent Tom Crowley said the seizure was notable because of the high number of weapons seized.