Federal agents confiscated 222 guns in a raid on an upscale Colleyville home in December 2018, setting off a two-year legal battle over the seizure and whether the weapons should be returned to the couple that owns them.
It started with an undercover investigation into illegal firearm sales by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF.
The government initially missed two deadlines to file forfeiture paperwork and did not return the property even after losing a round in court.
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But prosecutors argued that they are still entitled to hold onto the guns because they are evidence in a criminal case – regardless of the ruling in the civil forfeiture case.
Just last week, U.S. Magistrate David Horan recommended that the government be allowed to keep the guns after prosecutors said criminal indictments were “imminent,” according to Horan’s ruling.
“The property is still needed as evidence of the alleged criminal violations,” Horan wrote.
Prosecutors charge unlicensed dealers who circumvent rules requiring background checks for firearm sales and allow guns to fall into dangerous hands.
The couple, Kevin Scott Gunnip and his wife Sarah, consider themselves collectors – not dealers – and don’t need a license, their attorney said.
Diane Kozub, a Dallas lawyer who represents the couple in the forfeiture case, said they are considering an appeal, which they must file within two weeks.
Kozub said the law allows collectors to make occasional sales or purchases. But federal law requires that dealers routinely engaged in the business of selling firearms for profit obtain a license and run background checks.
Undercover Investigation at Gun Show
According to court documents, the ATF opened an investigation in September 2018 after a tipster reported Gunnip was selling firearms without a license at the Market Hall gun show on North Stemmons Freeway in Dallas.
An undercover agent attended the show and said he saw Gunnip operating a table “prominently displaying multiple firearms for sale,” according to court documents. The agent bought a Colt Government Model .38 Super pistol for $1,400.
A few days later, the agent bought another pistol from Gunnip for $2,900.
In November 2018, the agent was invited to Gunnip’s Colleyville home and noticed five safes in the front room full of guns. He bought a third firearm from Gunnip for $3,500.
The house, on Edgewater Court, is 3,500 square feet and is on the tax rolls at $506,700.
“Gunnip told me that if I was interested in making any future purchases, I would be welcome to return to his home as we had already done business together,” the agent wrote in a search warrant.
Gunnip resigned as a broker at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in February 2018, according to the watchdog group known as FINRA, or Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, months before the ATF raided his home.
FINRA said that Gunnip resigned from Morgan Stanely while an “internal inquiry into certain transactions he executed for clients” was pending and that he refused to testify in the investigation, which is itself a violation of the group’s rules.
The watchdog group then barred Gunnip from associating with FINRA members “in all capacities,” and Gunnip accepted the sanction without admitting or denying any wrongdoing, according to the group’s website.
The ATF referred questions to prosecutors.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Dallas declined to comment on the case.
The Gunnips’ criminal attorney, Jim Burnham of Dallas, did not return an email seeking comment.