Firearms sales by LAPD captain, LASD deputy draw scrutiny

Federal prosecutors are reviewing potential criminal charges against a high-ranking Los Angeles police official and an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy who sold high-capacity firearms without a license.

LAPD Capt. Steve Embrich sold about 50 firearms in recent years, and Sheriff’s Deputy Christian Maciel sold nearly 40, according to L.A. County prosecutors.

Many were “off-roster” guns with high-capacity magazines that are deemed unsafe for public sale in California but can be sold to law enforcement officers.

LAPD officials referred the two cases to the U.S. Attorney’s office in L.A. on the recommendation of L.A. County prosecutors, according to internal records from the district attorney’s office and the LAPD.

The local prosecutors did not conclude that Maciel or Embrich broke federal laws but said there was evidence to suggest they did.

An attorney for Maciel denied he had broken any laws, saying he sold the firearms as a hobbyist, which would be legal, and not to turn a profit, which would be illegal. An attorney for Embrich declined to comment.

The U.S. Attorney’s office, which will evaluate the cases and decide whether to file criminal charges, also declined to comment.

The referrals are the latest twist in the sprawling LAPD investigation into the theft of dozens of firearms from a nonprofit gun store at the Los Angeles Police Academy in Elysian Park. A store manager named Archi Duenas had been pilfering firearms from the store and then selling them privately, including to Embrich, Maciel and several other LAPD officers.

The LAPD presented criminal cases to local prosecutors against five officers, including Embrich and Maciel, for knowingly purchasing stolen firearms from Duenas.

Duenas received probation in August after pleading no contest to grand theft of a firearm and illegally transferring a firearm.

In October, prosecutors cited insufficient evidence to file charges against three of those officers. They reached the same conclusion for Maciel last month and Embrich earlier this month, while referring the two men’s sale of off-roster firearms to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Embrich, who leads the LAPD’s Pacific station, had sold about 50 firearms in the last five years, including 41 in 2021, and appeared to have dozens more for sale on consignment, prosecutors wrote in his case.

While it would be legal for Embrich to sell that number of guns “as a gun enthusiast and as part of enhancing his gun collection, or to liquidate his collection,” “it is also possible that Embrich is engaging in repetitive sales of off-roster firearms for profit,” the prosecutors wrote.

Muna Busailah, Embrich’s attorney, has previously said that her client denied all allegations against him but had been ordered by the LAPD not to discuss the case because of pending criminal and administrative investigations.

Capt. Stacy Spell, a LAPD spokesman, said this week that the LAPD’s administrative investigation into Embrich was still ongoing but nearing its conclusion.

According to a separate D.A. memo, Maciel had sold nearly 40 firearms in the last five years, including seven within 60 days of buying them — which suggested to prosecutors that he “might be selling off-roster firearms for profit.”

Elizabeth Gibbons, an attorney for Maciel, said Wednesday that was not the case.

“He never sold these guns as a living, or as a job or as an income or anything. He bought them for personal use and then didn’t like the guns,” Gibbons said. “It wasn’t anything more nefarious than that. He’s a military guy, and he uses guns for a living. He would test fire the guns, he didn’t like them, and he would sell them. That was all there was to it.”

Gibbons said Maciel was a victim of Duenas who trusted that a gun store operating out of the LAPD academy would be reputable.

Maciel was most recently assigned to Century Station. The sheriff’s department would not confirm his status Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors have previously charged local law enforcement officers with illegally selling off-roster guns, including a former Torrance police officer and two former Gardena police officers.

Times staff writers Alene Tchekmedyian and Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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