Stolen Fife guns found as theyre used in crimes
The investigation into the theft of more than three dozen guns from a Fife sporting goods store has stretched into three counties, and authorities believe it could widen as criminal networks continue to pass around the stolen weapons.
Pierce County prosecutors last week filed a dozen new felony counts against five men, bringing to eight the number of people charged in the case.
Five of those charged are in custody, and arrest warrants have been issued for the other three, including a man with ties to a West Seattle street gang.
“It’s just kind of growing exponentially,” said deputy prosecutor Gregory Greer, who is handling the case.
One of the 41 stolen weapons allegedly was used during a January robbery in Wenatchee, and many more remain unaccounted for.
“Unfortunately, the way we’re getting them back is when crimes are being committed with them,” Greer said. “Probably, we’ll see them popping up for years.”
Charges against the men include first-degree burglary, conspiracy and theft of a firearm.
The case began Dec. 17 when two men broke into the Sportco/Farwest Sports store before dawn and made off with 39 pistols and two rifles. The burglars, one of whom wore a Santa hat, smashed in a glass door to enter the store and then broke into glass display cases to grab the firearms.
A confidential informant later told police that David Bunta might have been involved in the thefts. Police arrested Bunta in late December, and he admitted taking part in the robberies. He’s pleaded not guilty to 42 crimes and awaits trial.
Prosecutors charged two of Bunta’s associates – Soeun Sun and Sovannarith Soeung – in the weeks after Bunta’s arrest. Authorities said they found one of the stolen guns in Sun’s car and another in Soeung’s bedroom. They’ve both pleaded not guilty to felonies.
The case broke open last month when Wenatchee police notified their Fife counterparts that one of the stolen guns had been used during a January robbery.
Three men – one from Federal Way, one from Seattle and another from Yakima – were accused of robbing another man at gunpoint in East Wenatchee. Police in the Chelan County city stopped the three and recovered a gun inside their vehicle, according to a story in The Wenatchee World.
That gun later was determined to be one stolen from the Sportco/Farwest Sports store.
Fife police detective Jeff Nolta and agent John Hansen of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traveled east of the mountains to interview suspect Wayland Witten, who’s being held in the Chelan County Jail for investigation of first-degree robbery.
Witten told Nolta and Hansen he’d bought the gun from two men in West Seattle, later identified as Alix Harris and Andrew Stearman, court records show.
“Witten stated that a couple of weeks after the burglary, Harris and Stearman showed him several stolen guns while at their house,” the records state. “The brothers told Witten the guns had been received from defendant Sun, who had committed the Sportco burglary.”
On April 11, authorities arrested Harris and Stearman, who live in the White Center area of King County. Harris, according to court records, told police Sun brought a duffle bag full of guns to the White Center house some time in mid-December and offered to sell them to him.
Harris told Sun he wasn’t interested in buying them, but later allowed Sun to store some of the weapons in the White Center house, court records show.
“Harris stated he witnessed Sun sell guns, including a Springfield XD, to an Asian male and to several other people,” the records state.
One of those people allegedly was Minh Ly, aka “Little Menace,” who is thought to have ties to a West Seattle gang. Ly paid $1,000 for five guns, including one that looked like a Mac 10 with a silencer, court records show.
“Harris stated he believes Sun is the ringleader of a group of Asian males involved in criminal activity, including marijuana sales, robberies and robberies of drug dealers,” the records show.
Sun has denied knowledge of Sportco/Farwest burglary, court documents state.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644