Billings man who used construction excavator to break into firearms dealer and steal guns sentenced to more than five years in prison
(STL.News) A Billings man who admitted to stealing firearms from a dealer after breaking into the business by using a construction excavator to tear a hole in the wall was sentenced today to five years and two months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
Erik Stephen Deaner, 46, pleaded guilty in December 2021 to theft from a federal firearms dealer.
U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided. Judge Watters also ordered $1,000 restitution.
The government alleged in court documents that on Oct. 21, 2021, Deaner stole firearms from Castle Arms, a federal firearms licensee located in Yellowstone County, by using a construction excavator to tear down a section of wall and door. The excavator had been taken from a nearby construction site.
The excavator had been locked and no keys were missing, but the key was universal so anyone with the manufacturer’s key could potentially access the excavator. An investigation determined that five pistols and one antique rifle had been stolen and that Deaner had been in the business previously and had behaved oddly.
Investigators went to Deaner’s home and arrested him on an outstanding warrant when he came outside. Deaner admitted to using the excavator to break into the business and to stealing the firearms. Deaner said he knew he was prohibited from possessing firearms but that he liked firearms. All of the stolen firearms were recovered from his garage.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas K. Godfrey prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative to reduce violent crime. Through PSN, federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement partners in Montana focus on violent crime driven by methamphetamine trafficking, armed robbers, firearms offenses and violent offenders with outstanding warrants.