LOS ANGELES 

A San Fernando Valley man was sentenced Wednesday to nine years seven months in federal prison for burglarizing self-storage units in Southern California, officials stated.

He stole dozens of firearms and sold some of the weapons to convicted felons.

     U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald sentenced Rick Eric Herst, 36, a.k.a. “Loyal,” of Reseda.

According to officials, Herst plead guilty in February 2021 to one count of conspiracy to traffic in firearms and one count of selling firearms to a convicted felon.

            From December 2018 to September 2019, Herst conspired with Jeffrey James LaFraniere, 39, of Van Nuys, and Alan Elperin, 31, of Mission Hills.

brown mallet on gray wooden surfaceTogether, these three men burglarized multiple self-storage units in Glendale, Valencia, Culver City, West Los Angeles, Northridge, Culver City, Thousand Oaks, Rancho Mirage and elsewhere, stealing firearms and other valuables, officials stated.

They offered the stolen firearms for sale to customers either in person or via text message. LaFraniere and Herst sold the firearms to buyers they knew were convicted felons.

            For example, on May 30, 2019, the trio burglarized a self-storage facility in Valencia and stole 35 firearms, including multiple .45-caliber pistols, 12-gauge shotguns and high-powered rifles.

On the same day as the Valencia burglary, LaFraniere and Herst sold two of the stolen firearms – a .45-caliber pistol and a .40-caliber pistol – to a buyer whom they knew was a convicted felon.

           At the time of his arrest in March 2020, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Herst’s residence and found a loaded Glock 9mm pistol, which was one of multiple weapons stolen during a residential burglary that occurred in or around January 2020, officials stated.

Herst also possessed 14 shotgun shells, 95 rounds of .38-caliber ammunition, more than 30 stolen debit and credit cards, multiple stolen or fake California driver’s licenses, and a large quantity of stolen merchandise belonging to various burglary victims.

            “Although many guns have not been recovered, those that have were largely found in the hands of felons or recovered at crime scenes,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

 Elperin plead guilty in November 2020 to one count of conspiracy and one count of receiving stolen firearms. He is serving a 100-month federal prison sentence.

LaFraniere pleaded guilty in September 2020 to one count of conspiracy, one count of receiving stolen firearms and one count of selling firearms to a felon.

His sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 26, at which time he will face up to 25 years in prison.

  The FBI Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigated this matter.

By Raul

Raul Hernandez is a former journalist. He has worked as a newspaper reporter for more than 30 years at the El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso Times, Press Enterprise in Riverside, California and the Ventura County Star in California. He was a court reporter for more than 20 years.