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Ferro gets five years

Upland man sentenced to prison for weapons stockpile

by Rod Leveque
Aug. 27, 2007
Reprinted from Inland Valley Daily Bulletin - Ontario,CA

Robert FerroRIVERSIDE - An Upland man who illegally stored a massive weapons arsenal inside his upscale suburban home was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison Monday.

Robert Ferro, who claimed he amassed many of the guns in preparation for the overthrow of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, was also fined $75,000 as part of his punishment.

The prison sentence handed down by Judge Virginia A. Phillips was not only substantially stiffer than the 21 months sought by Ferro's attorneys, but also was harsher than what federal prosecutors had asked for.

The judge showed little mercy for Ferro during the hearing, saying she was especially bothered Ferro kept such a large cache of deadly weapons in a residential neighborhood.

"This is a serious offense," the judge said.

Police found more than 1,500 guns during an April 2006 search of Ferro's home on Tapia Way. The arsenal included machine guns, short barreled rifles, a live hand grenade, 130 silencers, a rocket launcher tube and about 89,000 rounds of ammunition.

Ferro is not allowed to have any guns because of a 1992 felony conviction for possession of explosives on a Pomona chicken ranch. In that case, prosecutors alleged he was using the
ranch in preparation for an invasion of Cuba.

Ferro pleaded guilty in June to a single count of illegal weapons possession. As a result of his plea, he faced a maximum sentence of nearly seven years in prison.

Ferro, 63, spoke briefly during his sentencing hearing in federal court in Riverside Monday morning.

He told the judge many of the guns were collectibles he gathered as an investment over the past 43 years.

The others he intended to use against Castro, and never posed any danger to anyone else, he said.

"I never hurt anyone in the U.S.," he said. "I love this country." Moments later he added, "I want to go to Cuba and get rid of Castro."

Ferro said he believed he had the government's blessing to have the guns because authorities seized them in 1991 while investigating the explosives case, and then gave them back.

"Maybe it was wrong," he said. "I don't know. They didn't charge me in 1991, so I thought it was OK to keep them until we went to Cuba."

Phillips was not persuaded by Ferro's explanations.

"None of them are convincing and all of them reflect a lack of respect for the law," the judge said.

Phillips told attorneys Monday that the similarities between Ferro's prior case and his current one indicate he is a danger to the community and a likely candidate to re-offend.

Ferro's attorneys had asked the judge for leniency, claiming a sentence of four or five years in prison amounted to a death sentence for Ferro.

Ferro has diabetes and a bad heart, and will not get the medical attention he needs while he's locked up, they claimed.

"He will die in prison," defense attorney Rhonda A. Anderson told the judge Monday. "Statistically it's clear he's at the tail end of his life."

The judge was unmoved.

Ferro's attorneys said they will consider appealing the sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennise Willett declined to comment.


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