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More than 1,000 illegally sold guns head to new home

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ATF special agent William Metcalf holds a sawed-off shotgun that was one of 1,350 guns that were loaded in barrels Thursday afternoon and transported to an ATF facility in Martinsburg, W.Va. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Front Royal Police Sgt. Jason Ryman holds a rifle while Shelley Mauck, a records and evidence specialist for the department, scans the item into a computer during the daylong transfer of more than 1,300 guns from the Simonpetri case last year. The guns were transferred from the police department to an ATF facility in Martinsburg, W.Va. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Front Royal Police detective Crystal Cline lines up a row of guns Thursday afternoon to be trucked off to an ATF facility in Martinsburg, W.Va. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

The guns of Don Francis Simonpietri, more than 1,000 of them by law enforcement estimates, were loaded into a rental truck at the Front Royal Police headquarters Thursday and taken away to a federal facility for permanent storage.

The removal of the guns closed out a case that involved an investigation by the Front Royal Police Department, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Warren County Sheriff's Office, state police and Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force.

Simonpietri, owner of a pawnshop at 528 S. Royal Ave., also collected guns at his house. He was sentenced last year to 90 days in prison on two concurrent sentences, one for knowingly selling a firearm to a convicted felon and another for selling firearms without a license.

Law enforcement officials loading the guns estimated the total at 1,300 to 1,400. In addition to Simonpietri's, police said a few hundred were seized from defendants in Page and Madison counties.

"These people were just openly and willfully selling them with no regard," said Sgt. Jason Ryman of the Front Royal Police. Ryman said Simonpietri is now out on probation. His sentence included two years of supervised release.

Mike Schneider, resident agent in charge of the Martinsburg, W.Va. ATF field office, described the number of guns seized during the investigation as "one of the largest I've been involved with" in 23 years with the agency.

"It's pretty impressive," he added.

Ryman estimated the guns -- a variety of rifles, shotguns, handguns, revolvers, assault rifles and semi-automatic firearms -- to be worth between $300,000 and $400,000.

The guns were seized in 2009 at the end of an investigation begun by Front Royal Police after they fielded reports of illegal gun sales at Andrick's Flea Market on Commerce Avenue. Charles William Shipe, a convicted felon living in Strasburg at the time, was convicted with Simonpietri in the case.

Ryman said police used a convicted felon as a confidential informant to buy firearms from Simonpietri during the investigation. The owners of Andrick's were initially unaware of the illegal gun sales and later cooperated with police, Ryman said. He said the bulk of the weapons were seized from the pawnshop.

Schneider said the guns will be stored away at the ATF's Firearms Technology Branch in Martinsburg. Some may also appear at a museum the agency maintains in Martinsburg, he said.


In other words there heading to Mexico

They should be turned over to Front Royal/Warren Co. and sold via licensed dealers to citizens. That's 300-400K that could be used for something.

Rusty I agree that FR/Warren county could have made good use of the money that could have been generated by an auction of the firearms. An auction would have been governed by VA gun laws and it would have been a win-win for everybody. Why would the ATF have any need to "store" these weapons???

Why is Simonpietri still in business in FR?

That's their way of saying--they will take and divide amongst themselves (no one ever know the difference....Why would they store 'permanent'...I agree they should be aucioned and money go to Warren County..

The heading for this story says: "More than 1,000 illegally sold guns head to new home"
but the story never goes into how they came upon 1000 illegally 'sold' guns. Did they 'track' the selling of 1000 guns to people not allowed to own them? If the bulk of them came from the pawnshop how are they illegal?

"Law enforcement officials loading the guns estimated the total at 1,300 to 1,400."
Wouldn't you think they would have an exact number of firearms they are transferring? Shouldn't there be an inventory?

If Mr. Simonpietri was the original owner why did they seized them if they weren't part of him selling them? I know he is now a convicted person who probably can't own firearms now but he should be able to sell his own property and not have it seized.

"Schneider said the guns will be stored away at the ATF's Firearms Technology Branch in Martinsburg. Some may also appear at a museum the agency maintains in Martinsburg, he said."
Why or how can these firearms be used in a display since ATF doesn't own them but is just storing them? It looks like they are going to use them for their own purpose and that's not right.

It looks like most of these firearms were seized illegally by the government by reading this story. They should have only seized any firearms he was 'trying' to sell and not his whole collection that he owned.

Would you like it if the government just came into your house and seized your property that wasn't part of any illegal activity just because you owned it? That's what this story looks like.


I agree with John 100%, Mr Simonpietri owned all his guns legally I understand the court findings and the fact that he can't own them himself but what gives them the right to seize all of the mans guns??? If they caught him selling ONE gun illegally then take that one, not everything the man owns, I would think he should still have the right to pass those items on to his friends or family since he lost his right to own them his self. I bet if you put a GPS on those guns there where the agents want them to be instead of where there claiming there going. Funny I read an article and a large percentage of the illegal guns being shipped to Mexico or used in murders on our streets didn't come from someone like Mr. Simonpietri they came from someone wearing a ATF jacket!!!

I guess they thats their way of saying they dont need out tax money either since they have 400 k to just store away. If they seize a vehicle they sell it how in the hell is a gun any different? More people die from car crashes than guns!!!!!!!

Selling guns to a convicted felon is a felony. Once the man himself became a convicted felon he is no longer allowed to purchase or own a firearm. more than likely that is why he no longer has his weapons.

Great sting by law enforcement!

Simonpietri put making $ over your safety. He sold guns illegally to people who have a habit of crime. He doesn't care about you.

Let me break it down for you.

If you let him keep his guns, he will just sell them to more criminals.

Fool me once. Shame on you. Fool me twice. Shame on me.

I don't know what is more scary... 1000 guns or that ATF agent. He looks rough... wouldn't want to meet him in the darkened alleys of Front Royal.

However, he DOES have my three favorite things listed on his jacket! Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms... Yes please! As much as possible and all at the same time.

they're .. c'mon man!

In Arizona, if you are caught dealing drugs out of your residence, they can confiscate your home, your vehicles etc.

If you are brazen enough to know its wrong and do it anyway, the government can seize what they want. Its America people......the alternatives aren't too friendly. Rather live in Mexico and end up beheaded?

Well the headline caught my attention. I would not think the undercover felon had to buy over 1000 guns to get the charges they wanted. My guess is the undercover felon bought a couple to a handful and then they seized over 1000 that had not been illegally sold but were still in his firearms stock. Now that is not say he has never sold over a thousand guns to felons. Simonpietri's has been in Front Royal for a long time so to me that would be feasable.

Also, I for the most part agree with many comments above but step back and look at the big picture. Any of the same felons he sold guns to could have went to the store, got Valley Trader with their cigarettes and case of Beast and got any kind of gun they wanted. So to me this is a another pointless battle.

Well, I suppose my post was offensive to someone, as it was pulled.
No matter, it was just an opinion, which is what I thought this column was all about !
Please note that I always sign in with my full name ! If anyone has an issue with something that I post, at least you will know who I am and you can confront me on a personal basis.

What in the world do cars have to do with guns? Yes, and more people die from cancer each year as well. So what? Cars are manufactured to provide transportation. Guns are manufactured to kill, plain and simple. If one wants to engage in gun sales, then the least they can do is follow the gun laws that do exist, as few as they may be.

Only 90 days for illegally possessing this many guns? The guy is a convicted felon. Any gun he owns is illegal.

That's just ridiculous!

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