Woman who helped husband manufacture high-capacity rifles sentenced

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A 29-year-old woman who joined her husband in illegally manufacturing and modifying rifles to sell out of their Moreno Valley home was given a suspended jail sentence today, avoiding a five-year incarceration.

Sarah Anne Leach pleaded guilty last December to 69 felony counts, the majority of which were for manufacturing an assault weapon for sale, with a few other charges for being in possession of a banned firearm and attempting to illegally modify a rifle.

Leach made her plea directly to Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jack Lucky without input from the District Attorney’s Office.

The judge imposed the five-year suspended jail term with the same conditions as would apply to a person who receives felony probation.

In August 2018, Leach’s husband, 34-year-old Bearl Andrew Leach, pleaded guilty to 70 felony counts related to gun trafficking under a plea to the court. He was sentenced to eight years in county jail.

The couple were indicted in May 2018 following an investigation by the Inland Empire Joint Terrorism Task Force, composed of county sheriff’s deputies, FBI agents and law enforcement personnel from multiple municipal police departments in the region.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, the pair came under investigation after the sheriff’s department received tips that they had been making threats, the nature of which weren’t specified.

The case was assigned to the task force, whose investigators developed leads indicating there was alleged illegal gun-making activity at the defendants’ residence in north Moreno Valley, near Reche Canyon, prosecutors said.

Search warrants were obtained, and during a raid on the property, “multiple illegal assault weapons were found,” according to a statement from
the D.A.’s office.

“Evidence discovered during the search of the residence led investigators to believe the husband and wife were operating as illegal firearms dealers and were manufacturing and selling assault weapons out of their home,” the agency stated. “Each of the assault weapons seized appeared to be custom-designed for the buyer and were unregistered.”

Neither defendant had documented prior felony convictions.