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Record Cache of Explosives, Weapons Seized

Authorities seized a record cache of military-style explosives, as well as illegal weapons and an assortment of booby traps, at a former chicken ranch in Pomona, law enforcement officials disclosed Tuesday.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Howard Rechtschaffen said four people were arrested and five pounds of C-4, an explosive used by the military for demolition, were confiscated. It was the largest seizure of C-4 explosives ever made by the Sheriff’s Department.

Rechtschaffen said authorities raided the former chicken ranch on Monday in the 900 block of East Phillips Boulevard, less than a block from Alcott Elementary School.

Authorities were at a loss to explain the accumulation of weaponry and explosives, enough to level six or seven houses. “There’s nothing to connect the suspects to a paramilitary group, but it looks like a training camp,” Rechtschaffen said.

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Ranch owner Robert Ferro, 46, a licensed gun dealer, was arrested Monday at his home in an upscale Upland neighborhood. Deputies said they seized a fully automatic AK-47 assault rifle and a semiautomatic shotgun. They said the house also contained 300 other legal firearms, which were not confiscated.

Ferro was booked for possession of explosives, explosives components, automatic weapons and a silencer. He was released on $60,000 bond a few hours after his arrest.

Two caretakers of the property, Jose Antonio Gutierrez, 48, and Fidel Alberto Torres, 28, both of Pomona, were booked on charges of possession of explosives and explosives components.

Authorities said the investigation began Saturday night, when Baldwin Park police stopped Jamie Wolden, 38, who was walking unsteadily as if under the influence of drugs. Police said the Baldwin Park resident was carrying C-4 explosives and two blasting caps. He was booked for possession of explosives.

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Rechtschaffen said Wolden led authorities to the ranch.

The sheriff’s sergeant said the items seized at the chicken ranch, which had been closed for at least a year, included a pipe bomb, a switchblade, tracer bullets, a bayonet and a fake bomb that looked like sticks of dynamite connected to a timer. Also recovered was a selection of booby traps, including a cigarette package and a package of gum designed to detonate when a stick of gum was removed. None of the explosive devices were armed. He said the ranch had a makeshift shooting range and what appeared to be a training room for hand-to-hand combat.

A woman who answered the door at Ferro’s house on Tapia Way in Upland Tuesday said that he was unavailable to talk to a reporter.


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