Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 7:30 a.m.
A federal judge in Orange County has punished an ex-South African special-forces soldier for possessing an illegal cache of firearms and operating a $2.6 fraud scheme involving an ice-making business in Riverside.
U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney sentenced South African Johannes Vermaak, 44, to prison this month following a 2012 guilty plea to a portion of the federal charges he faced inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.
The case was a coup for federal law enforcement agents who first busted Vermaak for his three-year scheme to solicit at least 20 investments by promising a 14 percent return and then either losing the money in the financial markets or spending it on his personal expenses.
While the suspect was locked in the Santa Ana jail on wire fraud charges in 2010 he phoned a friend to tell him to retrieve and hide a 9mm Glock pistol, .40-caliber Glock pistol, Springfield Armory pistol, 9mm Sig Sauer pistol, 9mm Beretta pistol, 9mm VEKTOR pistol and two rifles plus dozens of rounds of ammunition.
Jail calls from inmates are recorded. Many criminals know this fact; others obviously don't, and an on-the-ball federal agent requested copies of all of Vermaak's calls, listened, captured the weapons and nailed him on additional charges.
It turns out that foreign nationals living illegally in the United States aren't allowed to own weapons.
A secrecy-prone federal prosecutor doesn't want the public to know her sentencing position in the case, but Carney handed Vermaak an 84-month trip to prison.
He's presently being housed in the Santa Ana Jail. In coming days, he'll be bused to a federal penitentiary. Perhaps he'll be deported back to South Africa when he emerges.