Orange County lawyer faces federal charges, accused of selling 'ghost guns'

An Orange County lawyer who represents clients in criminal defense cases faces federal charges of her own after being accused of conspiring to sell firearms without serial numbers, also known as "ghost guns."

Federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives say 41-year-old attorney Melinda Romines was allegedly trying to sell the guns by acting as a broker between black market dealers and customers.

The weapons are referred to as "ghost guns" because it is difficult to trace them.

"The ATF has analyzed this and determined they are in fact 'ghost guns,' home-made weapons," said U.S. Attorney's Office spokesperson Thom Mrozek.

The federal indictment states that Romines tried selling to a confidential source working with the ATF a .40-caliber pistol, a AR-style .45-caliber rifle, each bearing no serial number, a silencer and a high-capacity magazine with approximately 20 rounds of ammunition inside.

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Local law enforcement and federal authorities tell Eyewitness News that they are now coming across firearms without serial numbers, also known as "ghost guns," every day on the streets of Southern California.

Then, after allegedly brokering another pistol sale five months later, the indictment states that she told an undercover agent she found a good firearms source with a "lot of stock," and that she was "waiting on a list with pricing."

Eyewitness News traced Romines to a Los Alamitos apartment with security cameras outside. A man inside the home said she was not home.

Several attempts to reach Romines for comment have not been returned.

Last month, the former ATF special agent in charge of the Los Angeles Field Division told Eyewitness News officers are finding more "ghost guns" at crime scenes than ever before.

Eyewitness News legally purchased a gun kit last month to build a pistol and it arrived within 10 days. It had no affixed serial number, and was 80% pre-assembled. It was delivered with no background check required.
There's no background check needed to purchase gun kit, because technically you're only buying pieces of metal. Once the buyer drills a few holes in the frame, and puts the remaining pieces together, that is when it becomes a firearm.

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Law enforcement officials tell Eyewitness News they have been asking lawmakers to pass regulations for unserialized firearms, also known as "ghost guns," for years. A "ghost gun" pistol was used by the Saugus High School shooter last November, and a "ghost gun" assault rifle was used by the suspect to kill CHP officer Andrew Moye Jr. last summer.

We did not drill into our frame, because in California, there are state laws you must follow first. That includes applying for a serial number with the Department of Justice before building a pistol or rifle, and most pistol kits do not meet California's latest handgun standards to get serial number approval.

"It concerns me as a law enforcement official that someone with rudimentary or basic skills can mass produce untraceable firearms in the comfort of their own home," said Carlos A. Canino, the Special Agent in charge of the ATF Los Angeles Field Division.

Romines pleaded not guilty last week to charges of conspiring to sell firearms without a license, possessing an unregistered firearm and distributing methamphetamine.

Federal investigators are still looking into who created the "ghost guns."

"We're continuing to investigate her, the sources of the firearms and narcotics and perhaps other customers that she may have done business with," said Mrozek.
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