BILLINGS - A Billings man accused of stealing firearms from a business after breaking in by using a construction excavator to tear down a section of wall and door admitted to a firearms crime on Wednesday.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Erik Stephen Deaner, 46, pleaded guilty to theft from a federal firearm licensee. Deaner faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
Deaner was detained pending further proceedings. A sentencing date is pending before U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters.
In court documents, federal prosecutors alleged that on Oct. 21, Deaner stole firearms from Castle Arms, a federal firearms licensee located in Lockwood, by using a construction excavator to tear down a section of wall and door.
The excavator had been taken from a nearby construction site. Construction site employees told law enforcement that the excavator had been locked and no keys were missing but that the key was universal so anyone with the manufacturer’s key could potentially access the excavator.
An investigation determined that five pistols and one antique rifle had been stolen and that Deaner had been in the business previously and had behaved oddly.
Investigators went to Deaner’s home and arrested him on an outstanding warrant when he came outside. Deaner admitted to using the excavator to break into the business and to stealing the firearms. Deaner said he knew he was prohibited from possessing firearms but that he liked firearms. All of the stolen firearms were recovered from his garage.