SALEM, Ore. — Federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives seized more than 65 guns during raids on two houses in Salem in the past month, all connected to a single suspect.
ATF agents believe the operation was the largest “ghost gun” manufacturing ring ever uncovered in Oregon, according to the court records, and that the defendant was allegedly using counterfeit oxycontin pulls to facilitate strawman purchases of additional guns.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel announced some of the details of the case during a Thursday morning press conference hosted by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to address the issue of gun violence.
The defendant in the case, Tyler Harnden, 29, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday on multiple counts including possession and distribution of fentanyl, controlled substance offenses, firearm offenses, felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, according to a press release from the Salem Police Department.
ATF agents and Salem police detectives executed a search warrant at Harnden’s South Salem home on Feb. 16, according to the press release and court documents from the case.
Harnden had been arrested a short time earlier on an outstanding warrant for violating his post-prison supervision. He had a previous conviction for delivering heroin, and as a felon, was barred from possessing firearms.
The agents found two pistols in a safe in Harnden’s bedroom, along with evidence indicating that he had been privately manufacturing and selling firearms, referred to as "ghost guns" because they lack serial numbers for tracing.
The team found three completed rifles, 13 lower receivers for rifles in various stages of completion, two pistol frames, thousands of rounds of ammunition, about 15 high-capacity magazines for various calibers of ammunition and three drill presses and other firearm manufacturing equipment.
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The agents also found about 200 counterfeit oxycontin pills that were believed to be manufactured with fentanyl, and approximately 45 grams of suspected heroin. Harnden was in possession of about 100 more counterfeit pills when he was arrested, and agents searched his phone and found text messages indicating that he was selling both the pills and heroin.
Additional evidence suggested that Harnden had been paying drug addicts to buy guns for him in exchange for the counterfeit oxycodone pills, according to the court documents, and the agents found evidence associating Harnden with more than 50 such transactions.
The agents also found evidence that Harnden had stored additional firearms at a relative’s house. ATF agents and Salem police detectives executed a search warrant at the second house on Tuesday and found four gun safes containing 63 additional firearms including pistols, rifles, shotguns and components used to manufacture guns.
Harnden faces up to 10 years in prison on the felon in possession of a firearm charge, 20 years in prison on the drug charges and up to life in prison for the charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, with a mandatory minimum of five years in prison.