(CBS4) – Four men were caught by federal agents in an undercover operation Tuesday in Arvada. The four were charged Thursday with the theft of firearms from gun store in late April and the sale of those weapons.
Twenty-one guns were stolen from Eagles Nest Armory at 3:45 a.m. that day.
Surveillance video released by the Arvada Police Department showed four individuals pulling up to the business in a black SUV, breaking into the store’s back door with a pry tool, and running back to the vehicle and driving off four minutes after arriving.
Two brothers, Norberto and Victor Valdez-Esquivel, their nephew Daniel Esquivel, and acquaintance Tristan Molinar, each face up to five years in prison and a quarter of a million dollar fine, if found guilty.
The men were nabbed with the help of a confidential informant who introduced an undercover agent to them. One of the suspects, Noberto Valdez-Esquivel, told the informant he had guns to sell, that they were stolen, and that he knew the person who stole them.
The undercover agent eventually met several times with all the men at Noberto’s north Denver residence in mid-May. Daniel Esquivel showed the undercover agent a news article containing the surveillance video and said, “So this is me and my crew, bro,” according to case documents obtained by CBS4. “This is how we move. … We hit dispensaries, gun stores, you name it.”
Some of the guns were stored in a box truck parked on the property. More were put inside another vehicle’s air filter box, and others were kept in the residence.
As a purchase of rifles was discussed, Norberto told the undercover agent the weapons were “hot,” street slang for stolen, but that they did not have any “heads” on them, meaning the guns had not been used to kill anyone.
The undercover agent paid cash for three weapons that were later identified as among those taken from the Arvada store.
Daniel also showed a video of the next gun store he planned to “hit,” adding that they would need at least three cars to make off with that haul.
The next day, Molinar told the undercover agent he felt the group needed to wait at least a month before its next gun store theft because the “last one” at Eagles Nest Armory was “already hot.”
Law enforcement teams moved in and arrested all four minutes later. Two more Eagles Nest firearms were found inside the box truck. Other than those two and the three that were purchased, case documents did not state how many of the 21 stolen guns in total were recovered.
Federal prosecutors believe Daniel Esquivel and Molinar took part in the burglary, and all four men profited from the sales of the weapons.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headed the operation with help from the Arvada and Denver police departments.