Ferro gets five years
Upland man sentenced to prison for weapons stockpile
by Rod Leveque
Aug. 27, 2007
Reprinted from Inland Valley Daily Bulletin - Ontario,CA
RIVERSIDE - An Upland man who illegally stored a massive weapons arsenal inside his upscale suburban home was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison Monday.
Robert Ferro, who claimed he amassed many of the guns in preparation for the overthrow of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, was also fined $75,000 as part of his punishment.
The prison sentence handed down by Judge Virginia A. Phillips was not only substantially stiffer than the 21 months sought by Ferro's attorneys, but also was harsher than what federal prosecutors had asked for.
The judge showed little mercy for Ferro during the hearing, saying she was especially bothered Ferro kept such a large cache of deadly weapons in a residential neighborhood.
"This is a serious offense," the judge said.
Police found more than 1,500 guns during an April 2006 search of Ferro's home on Tapia Way. The arsenal included machine guns, short barreled rifles, a live hand grenade, 130 silencers, a rocket launcher tube and about 89,000 rounds of ammunition.
Ferro is not allowed to have any guns because of a 1992 felony conviction for possession of explosives on a Pomona chicken ranch. In that case, prosecutors alleged he was using the
ranch in preparation for an invasion of Cuba.
Ferro pleaded guilty in June to a single count of illegal weapons possession. As a result of his plea, he faced a maximum sentence of nearly seven years in prison.
Ferro, 63, spoke briefly during his sentencing hearing in federal court in Riverside Monday morning.
He told the judge many of the guns were collectibles he gathered as an investment over the past 43 years.
The others he intended to use against Castro, and never posed any danger to anyone else, he said.
"I never hurt anyone in the U.S.," he said. "I love this country." Moments later he added, "I want to go to Cuba and get rid of Castro."
Ferro said he believed he had the government's blessing to have the guns because authorities seized them in 1991 while investigating the explosives case, and then gave them back.
"Maybe it was wrong," he said. "I don't know. They didn't charge me in 1991, so I thought it was OK to keep them until we went to Cuba."
Phillips was not persuaded by Ferro's explanations.
"None of them are convincing and all of them reflect a lack of respect for the law," the judge said.
Phillips told attorneys Monday that the similarities between Ferro's prior case and his current one indicate he is a danger to the community and a likely candidate to re-offend.
Ferro's attorneys had asked the judge for leniency, claiming a sentence of four or five years in prison amounted to a death sentence for Ferro.
Ferro has diabetes and a bad heart, and will not get the medical attention he needs while he's locked up, they claimed.
"He will die in prison," defense attorney Rhonda A. Anderson told the judge Monday. "Statistically it's clear he's at the tail end of his life."
The judge was unmoved.
Ferro's attorneys said they will consider appealing the sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennise Willett declined to comment.
Upland man gets prison in weapons case
by Richard K. De Atley
Aug. 28, 2007
Reprinted from Press-Enterprise
A Cuban émigré was sentenced to 65 months in federal prison Monday for illegal possession of guns, including automatic weapons that he told a judge were meant for use to attack Fidel Castro or his government.
The sentence U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips gave Robert Ferro, 64, was 13 months longer than the one suggested by government prosecutors, Ferro's attorney Arturo V. Hernandez said outside court.
Phillips said there were several aggravating factors contributing to Ferro's sentence, including the 1,600 firearms found in his Upland home.
Ferro was convicted in 1991 for felony possession of explosives. Convicted felons are prohibited from owning most guns. Court documents said 89,000 rounds of ammunition were found at the home.
Phillips also questioned Ferro's credibility. Ferro claimed he was with the U.S. Army Special Forces, but military records showed he had only six months of active duty in the early 1960s, the judge noted. He also claimed to be a contractor, but no license or other documentation could be found, she said.
Ferro, who operated a collectibles gallery in Upland, has $4.5 million in assets, according to court records.
Hernandez declined to comment outside court other than to say Ferro's attorneys would "review all available options." Appeal choices are limited because Ferro made a plea agreement.
In a rambling statement before he was sentenced, Ferro stated that he believed he could legally possess guns despite the earlier conviction.
"They were to be used in Cuba, in Havana," he said of the guns found throughout his family home, including ones hidden in secret compartments.
Court documents said that among the recovered weapons were 35 machine guns, 130 silencers and two short-barreled rifles, along with a hand grenade, military rocket-launcher tube, and grenade parts.
The single-count indictment to which Ferro pleaded guilty listed 16 illegal guns including a Thompson submachine gun and an Uzi, plus a hand grenade.
Ferro said Cuban leader Castro was responsible for the death of his sister years ago and took everything from his father, who he said was a doctor.
Federal agents said in April 2006 that Ferro stated while his home was being searched that he was a member of the anti-Castro group Alpha 66.
But Ferro claimed in papers filed before sentencing that his membership with the group ended 30 years ago.
Phillips declined a defense bid to strike Ferro's association with Alpha 66 as a factor of his criminal history to be considered in sentencing.
She noted that Ferro had mentioned "the need to invade Cuba" both in his previous court case and again to federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents in 2006.
Phillips also rejected arguments by defense attorneys that the guns were jointly owned by Ferro and his wife, that about 30 of the guns were antiques and could be legitimately owned by Ferro, that he was confused over whether he could possess any guns after the earlier conviction, and that he had the weapons to protect his family.
The judge said the weapons in the indictment included machine guns, a live grenade and "guns with silencers. There's only one reason to have a gun with silencers, and it's not for protection."
Attorneys for Ferro also argued for a reduction in his sentence for his various medical problems, including diabetes and a heart condition. He used a cane in court Monday.
"He will die in prison," attorney Rhonda A. Anderson said. Phillips said that argument could give anyone who commits a crime at a certain age a pass from being sentenced.
Phillips said she did reduce the sentence by five months because of Ferro's heart condition.
Prosecutors filed papers claiming that Ferro had deliberately aggravated his diabetic condition while in jail by eating sweets. Phillips said she believed federal prison medical care could effectively treat Ferro "if he chooses to be compliant."
In addition to the sentence, Phillips also fined Ferro $75,000.
Federal agents were drawn to Ferro's home in April of 2006 after local police uncovered a cache of weapons while looking for a gun used in shootings they were investigating. The handgun police were looking for was never found.