Foley man pleads guilty to illegal gun sales – including some weapons used in crimes

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 7:30 PM CST
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A Foley-area man pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal gun charge, admitting that he illegally sold a gun without a federal firearms license.

Steven R. “L.O.” Hansen’s plea to one count of dealing firearms without a federal firearms license resolves a case that was about to go to trial. Prosecutors agreed to a plea bargain that will bind the judge to a sentence of zero to 18 months; originally, Hansen had been facing five years in prison.

Other, more serious charges alleging importation of silencers and structing financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements, will be dismissed.

Defense attorney Dennis Knizley said he intends to argue against prison time.

“We think this is a case where a probation sentence is appropriate,” he said.

Court records indicate that Hansen, 42, had been under federal investigation since April last year, when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began looking into reports that he was selling firearms at gun shows and other venues.

According to Hansen’s plea agreement, seven firearms traces between March 18 and Dec. 27 last year turned up guns that Hansen has sold that later were involved in crimes. Those include two pistols used in crimes in Mobile within 70 and 171 days, respectively. In another instance, a convicted felon had a pistol 207 days after Hansen sold it.

A multi-agency gang unit in Memphis recovered a gun in December that Hansen had sold, according to the plea agreement.

In October 2021, law enforcement in Mississippi stopped a suspect in an armed robbery in Vicksburg who told investigators that he remembered buying the gun from Hansen at a gun show in Jackson, Mississippi, in April of that year.

According to the plea agreement, the suspect told investigators that he was in line at a booth next to Hansen at that gun show while he was waiting on his background check when Hansen’s girlfriend told him the defendant could sell him the same gun with “no paperwork.” He paid $1,600 – $400 more than he was going to pay the legitimate dealer.

Hansen lived in Pensacola and ran military surprise store called Rugged Earth until about four years ago when he moved to a 60-acre compound in the Foley area that he purchased. His plea agreement indicates that the property has no numerical address and is not equipped with power, utilities like water, power and sewer. Hansen opened a Rugged Earth store in Foley but closed it in early 2020 and operated it online, the plea document states.

ATF agents tracked Hansen as he traveled to gun shows in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana from Oct. 4 last year to February of this year.

The plea agreement indicates that in June last year, ATF agents sent confidential informants, both convicted felons, who were able to buy guns from Hansen at a gun show in Mobile.

The following month, according to the plea document, an undercover agent at gun show in Robertsdale asked Hansen if they could get together at a later date.

“You could,” he answered, according to the plea document. “I’m a big gun guy. I’ve got hundreds.”

Knizley, the defendant’s lawyer, had argued that his client had a legal right to sell guns from his personal collection because he selling firearms was not his primary business. Prosecutors argued that the volume indicated, otherwise.

“It is murky,” Knizley said.

Knizley also disputed the silencer charges that a grand jury later added.

“That was also a murky area,” he said.

Knizley had been prepared to call an expert witness to testify that the devices listed in the indictment were not actually silencers. Prosecutors had asked a judge to prohibit the testimony. That issue had not been resolved by the time the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the defendant worked out the plea bargain.

U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer set Hansen’s sentencing for February.


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