U.S. District Judge Dee Benson was unmoved by a crestfallen apology from a Salt Lake County businessman on Thursday.
“I think deceit is one of his most apparent characteristics. I’m not even sure about the speech he gave me today,” Benson said of the apology before sentencing 40-year-old Adam Michael Webber on one count of dealing firearms without a license and five counts of tax fraud.
He sentenced Webber to four years in a federal prison and a $100,000 fine, shocking family and friends who sat behind the defendant in the courtroom to offer their support. They had submitted letters calling Webber generous and charitable. Those letters, Benson said, painted a picture inconsistent with the person he became acquainted with over the past three years.
“I appreciate the effort,” the judge said, “but I don’t believe a lot of it.”
The prosecution had asked for 37 months and a $250,000 fine.
Webber was convicted by a jury last year of selling firearms without a license and tax fraud. Initially, he had also been accused of smuggling and gun trafficking. Those counts were thrown out because of what the judge said were mistakes made by the prosecution.
And, after the conviction, Benson himself made an error in the jury instructions, the judge said Thursday, noting that he granted Webber a new trial on the count of dealing in firearms without a license. In May, however, Webber pleaded guilty to the charge.
Prosecutors initially said Webber had acquired more than 2,000 firearms between 2008 and 2012 to be sold. After the plea deal, the number was adjusted down to “well over 200” firearms, court documents state. Federal investigators seized 369 firearms from a warehouse and 11 from Webber’s home, according to court documents.
In 2007, Webber and his brother had agreed to never apply for a federal firearms license or deal in weapons. The agreement was part of a civil settlement with the U.S. government after federal agents seized several firearms that belonged to Webber in 2005.
The same year, Webber operated HK Parts, an online market for unregulated firearm parts and accessories, out of the basement of his Rose Park home. In 2008, he added firearms to the product line, according to prosecutors. In addition to selling firearms online, he met with customers in a parking lot to sell guns, according to court documents.
Defense attorney Rebecca Skordas said during the sentencing hearing that only 1.8 percent of HK Parts’ sales could be attributed to the sale of firearms.
“The idea that he profited from illegal wealth is not accurate,” Skordas said.
From 2007 and 2010, Webber earned more than $10 million in gross receipts from his business, between the legal sale of parts and the illegal sale of firearms.
The prosecution doesn’t know how much of the income came from illegal sales versus legal sales, said prosecuting attorney Kathleen Barry said Thursday.
But, Webber also was found guilty of underreporting how much he made in both his legal and illegal sales, reporting just $183,397 in gross receipts on tax forms.
He twice sold firearms to undercover agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Webber bought a house in $670,000 — in cash and under his wife’s name — according to court documents. He sheltered the home with a “sham limited liability company and the charade of a promissory note and mortgage worth less in reality than the paper on which it was printed,” court documents state. Skordas argued on Thursday that that decision was made based on advice from the couple’s real estate broker.
Webber paid $1.8 million in restitution to the IRS prior to the sentencing hearing.
The judge is allowing him to self-surrender to prison on Jan. 22, 2018. After serving four years of prison, he will be under supervised release for three years.
Both the prosecuting and defense attorneys declined to comment after the hearing.
Some 45 letters were submitted on Webber’s behalf, vouching for his character and asking the judge to be lenient with the sentencing.
Webber apologized to his wife and kids, to the judge and to each of the prosecuting attorneys. The trial had caused “suffering of many, including family and associates,” he said. “I caused them sorrow, stress and pain.”
“I was taught to take honest inventory of my actions. Your honor, my conduct was wrong,” he said.
He had done everything he could to make amends, he said, and asked the judge to sentence him to probation only.
But Benson handed down a harsher punishment, calling Webber “manipulative.”
“From my view of him, he is deceitful,” Benson said. “He is remarkably deceitful.”
Gun smuggling and trafficking charges had been dismissed because of “prosecutorial mistakes,” Benson said, adding that he can’t ignore that history.
“Gun trafficking was far more serious than anything that came up with the sale of guns domestically ... I’m not making a finding because those counts were dismissed, but there was something to them,” he said.
Webber had been briefly employed by the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, before he was fired for “misrepresenting his criminal history,” Barry said.
Salt Lake County Sgt. Kevin Hunter confirmed Webber had worked as a protective services officer — such as a bailiff or security officer — from March 2002 to September 2003. Hunter didn’t know why Webber had left the sheriff’s office.
Selling guns without a license “isn’t the worst in the world,” Benson said. But, the other charges were serious, he added, calling the “enormity of the lie ... quite remarkable.”