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http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/columnists/andrew_hanon/2010/06/23/14492806.html

When cops raided a suspected forgery factory in downtown Edmonton, they made a bone-chilling discovery.

Among the fake documents they seized were licences to buy guns and ammunition.

"This is a frightening prospect," said Gordon McGowan, owner of MilArm, one of the city's biggest firearms retailers. "If they're forging a (firearms licence), it's for a nefarious purpose. It's not to get a kid into a bar or allow a 14-year-old to buy a bottle. It's a clear-cut, outright nefarious purpose."

Cpl. Julie Macfarlane-Smith of the RCMP's commercial crimes section said she's never seen forged firearms licences before.

"It's quite a process to receive (a legal) one," she said, "and to think it's a matter of changing a face and the accompanying data (on a licence) so someone can say, 'this is who I am and I'm here to buy a firearm or some ammunition,' it's seriously a concern."

Sources close to Edmonton's gangs have told me that guns are easy to obtain, but bullets are scarce on the street. The reason, they say, is because you need a licence to buy ammunition from a retailer.

They suggest that if bullets were more accessible, there'd be a lot more shootings in the city.

If criminals can get their hands on forged licences, McGowan said, "it's particularly worrisome. What are we going to do next if there's any prevalence of this?"

Mounties and city cops raided the downtown house on June 18, acting on evidence gathered by the Stony Plain RCMP, who had previously raided a home on the Paul Band reserve near Lake Wabamun, where they found forged bank documents to that led them back to the city.

They found hundreds of stolen and forged pieces of I.D., including bank documents, credit cards, driver's licences, birth certificates, Canadian citizenship papers, Treaty and Metis cards and company I.D. cards. They also seized computer equipment and software to print counterfeit cash, other forging tools and a dagger disguised as a cane.

Six people face a laundry list of charges, including possession of stolen property, forgery and possession of forged documents. Cops expect to lay more charges against the Paul Band suspects soon.

Police say that when they charged through the door, one of the suspects was in the process of forging firearms possession and acquisition cards.

So far, said Stony Plain RCMP spokeswoman Const. Barb Roy, there's no link to organized crime, "but we'll definitely look into it to see if they're acting on their own or if there are other people acting with them."

She said hundreds of victims had their identities stolen, and police are still trying to determine the value of the crimes.

Firearms licences have magnetic strips, but McGowan says retailers don't have access to scanners to see if they're legitimate.

"I don't even know what information the strips contain," he said.

He said photos of the card holder are often of such poor quality that it's hard to see the face.

If he has any concern, he'll ask the customer for other picture I.D.

But, he says, that could be fake, too.

The only way to be positive, he said, is to phone the Canada Firearms Centre to confirm the licence, but that would be enormously time consuming.

"Realistically, I can't do that for every box of .22 ammunition."

Richard Alan Sullivan, 45, Gerald Martin Salvino, 67, Deleen Nicole Howe, 27, Tara Tegg, 33, Karry Troy Gladue, 39, and Tara Post, 34, will all be in Edmonton Provincial Court on July 12.

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