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Ranchers plead guilty to gun charges

Four members of a prominent wheat and cattle ranching family in Douglas County, Washington, have pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of illegally dealing in firearms.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on October 2, 2017 7:37AM

Last changed on October 2, 2017 3:23PM

Terry and Mary Hunt

Terry and Mary Hunt

SPOKANE — A former master of the Washington State Grange and his wife, who is a former Douglas County commissioner, and their two sons have pleaded guilty to federal charges related to illegally buying and selling firearms.

Terry Hunt was Grange master for many years and his wife, Mary, was a Republican county commissioner from 1998 to 2010. Both are 72. They operate a wheat and cattle ranch with their sons, Rusty, 52, and Derek, 47, at Sims Corner, east of Mansfield in northern Douglas County.

All four pleaded guilty to three counts each of aiding and abetting a false entry by a firearms dealer in U.S. District Court in Spokane on Sept. 6 and are scheduled for sentencing Dec. 7. Each could receive up to one year in prison and a fine of $100,000 on each count.

In exchange for the pleas, U.S. attorneys will drop a 16-count grand jury indictment against the Hunts issued last December. The indictment alleged conspiracy, dealing firearms without a license and numerous counts of making false statements in buying firearms from June 2011 through December 2015. Five-year prison terms and $250,000 fines were possible on the conspiracy charge.

Mary Hunt declined comment about the case to the Capital Press and said the family continues to operate its ranch.

According to the plea agreement, filed Sept. 6, the prosecution and defendants stipulate to the following facts:

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began investigating the Hunts in 2009, relative to the family’s sales of guns at the Big Reno Gun Show in Reno, Nevada. The Hunts operated a vendor booth called “Hunt Family Farms” at the show three times a year.

Investigators discovered the Hunts falsely filled out federal firearms forms and sold approximately 465 firearms for $273,954 between June 2012 and November 2015. The Hunts filled out forms when buying the guns in Washington indicating that the guns were for themselves, however the guns were sold in Reno.

On April 18, 2012, ATF Special Agent Heidi Wallace issued an ATF Cease and Desist Warning Letter to Terry Hunt. Hunt indicated it was the buyer’s problem, not his. Wallace told Hunt she would help him obtain a federal firearms license.

In 2013, Hunt recruited a straw purchaser to buy guns and continued illegal actions.

On Aug. 14, 2015, two undercover ATF agents bought guns from Mary Hunt at the Big Reno show. Hunt said the guns were transported to the show in the back of her Yukon and that she would sell them without tax, transfer fees or paperwork. Hunt never checked the agents’ identification or eligibility to possess firearms when she sold them two firearms. The undercover buy was audio and video recorded.

On Nov. 13, 2015, ATF served warrants at the Hunts’ ranch and recovered spreadsheets of firearms purchases and sales.

The plea agreement calls upon the court to sentence the defendants to five years probation with no jail time and fines of $5,000 to be paid at no less than $1,000 per year. The Hunts are to abandon all rights to more than 100 firearms seized from their home during the execution of a search warrant in December 2015.

If the court rejects the agreement, the Hunts may withdraw their guilty pleas and the U.S. may prosecute them for any and all crimes.


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