Courts

Pro motocross rider gets 2-year sentence for building, selling AR-15 blanks

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A professional dirt bike rider from Auburn, who pleaded guilty to illegally manufacturing and dealing in firearms before unsuccessfully attempting to withdraw his plea, was sentenced to 2 years in federal prison earlier this week.

A recent filing in the case, signed by US District Judge Kimberly Mueller, recommended Craig Mason of Auburn be incarcerated at a facility in Knoxville, Tennessee, to help facilitate easier visitation from his family. He will report to the BOP for assignment on March 4th, 2022, after being out on bond for over three years.

Mason struck up a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in 2019, where he agreed to plead guilty to one count of unlawfully manufacturing and dealing in firearms in exchange for the dismissal of several other charges.

Later, he attempted to back out from that agreement, citing a recent ruling in a separate case in California that raised the question as to whether lower receiver blanks, partially completed portions of firearms, could be considered guns under federal law. Mason allegedly carved out several of them in the presence of a confidential ATF source.

A judge would ultimately deny Mason’s motion to withdraw his plea and relitigate his case, ruling he didn’t show a “fair and just reason” to suddenly change his mind and toss out what he previously pleaded to.

Mason, a pro motocross racer who came in first at the AMA Supermoto Grand Championship for the Vet 35 class, was initially arrested in 2019 and linked to a sprawling ring of illegal gun dealers in the Sacramento area, spearheaded by two brothers, Luis and Emiliano Cortez, and another man who allegedly sold 34 firearms, including machine guns, to undercover agents.

According to court papers, an ATF informant purchased two AR-15 blanks from the Cortez brothers, who then referred him to Mason, who didn’t have any proper licensing, to drill them into carved-out lower receivers that could be used as part of a rifle.

When the informant came to Mason’s home outside of Sacramento, he guided him into a large workshop outfitted with a drill press. The informant told Mason that he had previously been to prison, but Mason said he “was not concerned about it.”

Mason told the informant that he had to place his hands on the machine and carve out the blank himself, with guidance, so Mason could claim he wasn’t making the firearm.

“The feds are cracking down on this stuff,” Mason said. “CNC guys especially.”

Regardless, undercover video footage referenced by investigators in charging documents showed Mason fitting the blank into a jig on the drill press and operating it, milling both of the blanks into completed lower receivers with several internal AR-15 parts. The informant paid him $250 and left the workshop with the two lower receivers.

Four days later, the informant returned to the Cortez brothers and paid them $2,000 to convert the blanks into two fully functional assault rifles.

A black-and-white copy of the AR-15s assembled by the Cortez brothers from Mason’s blank. Provided by the ATF.

A little over a week later, on October 9th of 2013, federal agents raided Mason’s home in Auburn and found dozens of AR-15 and AR-10 blanks, two fully built rifles and a pistol with lower receivers that were originally blanks, and three jigs used to build them.

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

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