Maryland sheriff charged in illegal gun rental scheme

A Maryland sheriff repeatedly lied to federal authorities to help a local firearms dealer illegally obtain machine guns and rent them out to his customers, forming a partnership that was profitable and politically beneficial, according to a federal grand jury indictment filed last week.

Frederick County Sheriff Charles “Chuck” Jenkins pleaded not guilty Wednesday to several charges, including conspiracy and making false statements to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

After initially pledging to remain in office while the case proceeds, Jenkins said Wednesday he is taking a leave of absence.

“I have full confidence in the system, and I know that my innocence will prevail at the end of all of this,” Jenkins said in a statement released by the agency.

He was released pending trial on several conditions, including that he refrains from possessing a firearm or other dangerous weapons.

Federal law generally prohibits firearm dealers from importing machine guns unless they are being used as demonstration models for law enforcement agencies, which can legally purchase such weapons. But in order for dealers to use that exemption, the interested law enforcement agency must submit a letter to ATF requesting a sample of the machine gun they are considering purchasing.

According to the indictment, Jenkins wrote such letters on behalf of his co-defendant, Robert Krop, whose Frederick County business The Machine Gun Nest offered machine guns for rent. The business made over $100,000 in profits from the rentals in 2018 and 2019 alone, the indictment says.

Krop offered Jenkins political support in exchange for the favor, according to federal prosecutors.

In several letters dating back to 2015, Jenkins falsely claimed the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office wanted samples of various machine gun models, according to the indictment. The requests were approved, allowing Krop’s business to obtain the weapons.

In a 2018 letter, Jenkins requested machine gun models that are “suitable only for use in combat,” not for law enforcement purposes, the indictment says.

Jenkins was first elected sheriff of the largely rural county in 2006. He started his career with the agency in 1990.

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