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Crime & Courts

Suspects in theft of 36 guns were out on bail after previous arrest

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: September 27, 2017
  • Published September 26, 2017

The two men charged with stealing 36 guns from an Anchorage firearms dealer had been arrested together in connection with a different Anchorage theft in June and were out on bail when the guns were stolen, court records show.

Seth Kaufman, 31, and Christopher Kratsas-Derr, 27, face federal charges in connection with the theft of the guns from EDC Alaska, an Anchorage gun and knife shop, early on the morning of Sept. 7.

Anchorage police released these images of the suspects in the gun shop burglary. (APD)

In separate arraignment hearings Tuesday in federal court in Anchorage, attorneys for both men said they pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The men are charged with one count each of firearms theft from a federally licensed dealer. Kaufman is also charged with one count of possessing the stolen guns that had previously been shipped in interstate commerce.

Each count brings a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives worked with the Anchorage Police Department on the investigation. Authorities say the two men backed a black pickup near the front of the business on Northern Lights Boulevard, entered and left with three dozen guns.

A tipster contacted Anchorage police Sept. 9 to say that Kaufman and Kratsas-Derr came to his house the night before with "a bag full of firearms" they wanted to sell, according to the affidavit of Sarah Foreman, an ATF special agent.

The tipster had seen the news of the stolen guns and didn't buy any, the affidavit says.

The tipster identified Kaufman and Kratsas-Derr from police photos and provided police with photos of what appears to be one of the stolen pistols.

He fled from a second-story window but was apprehended. Police recovered four of the stolen guns, including a rifle near the hotel room window. ATF said on Monday that most of the firearms that were stolen have still not been recovered.

Kratsas-Derr was arrested later.

Authorities knew the two men had been arrested "with a group of people" on June 2 for a theft in Anchorage, but were not in custody during the gun shop break-in on Sept. 7, the affidavit says.

Officers found that Kratsas-Derr was one of those arrested with Kaufman.

In that June 2 event, both men were charged with second-degree theft, a felony, though the charge for Kaufman has been amended to third-degree theft, a misdemeanor.

Those cases are considered open in state court.

In another case for Kaufman pending in state court, he is charged with first-degree burglary of a dwelling on April 12.

Anchorage's District Attorney Clint Campion said Tuesday that both men had posted bail for the June 2 theft charges.

The case involving Kaufman for the April 12 offense was not reported to police until June, at which point the police began conducting an investigation that included a hunt for surveillance video, Campion said. Charges in that case were brought in late August.

Many Alaskans are on edge because of increases in some categories of crime, and many are blaming the crime reform bill, Senate Bill 91, that passed in 2016 and is designed to give "low risk" offenders treatment instead of time behind bars.

The fact that Kaufman and Kratsas-Derr were on the streets when the gun shop theft occurred is not a Senate Bill 91 issue, Campion said.

"I don't think this is different than what we would have seen before Senate Bill 91," he said.

In federal court Tuesday, Kaufman and Kratsas-Derr, lean and with their hair cut short, appeared wearing yellow jumpsuits and ankle cuffs. U.S. Magistrate Judge Scott Oravec noted their prior court histories. The lawyers for both men did not request terms under which they could be released from custody.

"At this stage we don't contest detention," said David Nesbett, the attorney representing Kratsas-Derr.

The ATF asks anyone with information about the missing guns, most of which were pistols, to call 888-ATF-TIPS.

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