Prosecutors who charged a Clay County man last year with selling illegal machine gun conversion devices are now also going to court against a Wisconsin arms dealer who raised money for his defense.

A new federal indictment charges Kristopher “Justin” Ervin of Orange Park and Matthew R. Hoover of Coloma, Wisconsin with conspiring to illegally distribute unrecorded conversion material, which the indictment charges to the distribution of machine guns.

The list of charges from a federal grand jury in Jacksonville replaces one filed last spring against Ervin alone, detailing new allegations from investigators’ investigation into his online sale of credit card-sized metal strips under the product name Auto Key Card.

The 17-count indictment says Ervin’s sales took off due to the publicity he received from Hoover, 38, who regularly posts videos on a YouTube channel about firearms. fire and gunfire which had 134,000 subscribers this month.

The indictment lists 10 dates between November 2020 and February 2021 when, it says, Hoover promoted Ervin’s product in videos and referred to autokeycard.com as a sponsor of the videos.

“Mr. Ervin was paying Mr. Hoover for the ads,” Jacksonville-based executive assistant US attorney Laura Cofer Taylor told a Milwaukee judge Friday. The indictment identifies Hoover as operator of Coloma Resale, a store that is a federally licensed gun dealer, but court attorneys said much of Hoover’s income came from his YouTube posts. .

The decision to charge Hoover has inflamed gun rights supporters, who as of Monday had paid around $110,000 through 2,700 donations to a GoFundMe page set up to cover Hoover’s legal fees.

“This is truly a travesty of justice and shows that tyranny is alive and well in the country,” said John Crump, a self-proclaimed Virginia guns reporter who also posts on YouTube and other social media. , in an announcement about Hoover’s arrest. which was placed on the chains of the two men.

AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles similar to the one in this 2016 photo are sometimes converted into machine guns with conversion devices called auto-sears.  Orange Park's Kristopher Ervin has been charged with federal firearms for sending hundreds of items that prosecutors say operate as self-seizures.

Supporters touted Thursday’s fundraising effort as a step toward protecting gun rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“I donated and I don’t really care about Matt,” one viewer wrote in a message to Hoover’s channel, operating as CRS Firearms. “Something needs to be done about this out of control government/agency. It goes beyond personal feelings and every 2A supporter should also donate.

“They’re great because they’re stupidly cheap”

Hoover was arrested on Thursday, but after an online hearing on Friday, a Milwaukee federal magistrate ordered his release on condition that he not have contact with witnesses in his case or promote automatic key cards, silencers or legally questionable firearms products in his videos while his case was pending.

During Friday’s hearing, Taylor told US Magistrate Stephen Dries that Hoover had played a significant role in raising awareness of Auto Key Card products.

“‘They’re great because they’re stupid and cheap,'” the prosecutor, quoting Hoover, said in a video she said had been viewed 800,000 times.

AutoKeyCard.com, a website Ervin used before it was taken over by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Postal Officials, marketed metal items priced at between $80 and $139, resembling items such as a business card and an engraved pen holder. diagram.

This graphic appeared on a website federal agents said Kristopher Ervin used to sell card-shaped metal strips laser-etched with a design that could convert a semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun.  Ervin was charged with possessing machine gun conversion devices after officers found 1,552 pieces of metal engraved with the design.

Objects could contain one to three engravings, each of the same design.

Court documents said an ATF agent used a Dremel cutting tool to follow the pattern and cut metal from an object he inserted into a semi-automatic rifle to enable him to fire the weapon fully automatic – like a machine gun – with a single pull of the trigger.

Sold without any government license, the items created the potential of owning a fully automatic firearm without the regulation and expense of machine guns as one Taylor said the judge sold at auction for around $15,000.

Taylor said Friday that Ervin, 41, who contracted with a machine shop to produce the etched metal, filled at least 1,200 orders from fall 2020 until his arrest.

With some orders carrying more than one engraving, she said the number of conversion devices involved was “probably in the order of 2,000”.

Taylor told the judge that the Hoover videos referred to a “low-key ordering process” where customers could print order forms and send payments by mail. She said he suggested having the items delivered to an anti-gun relative’s address.

While Hoover described the items being sold as conversation starters, “he clearly knew what the automatic key card was,” she said.

Hoover told the judge that Judge Taylor’s remarks included “a whole bunch of inaccuracies”, but the subject was not discussed further until Dries decided to release him to await trial under supervision.

When this trial will take place is unclear.

Cases to be tried together

Ervin’s case was due to go to a jury in April, but it will likely be postponed as he and Hoover will be tried together and are both allowed time to prepare their defenses.

Ervin is due to be arraigned in the new indictment Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Jacksonville. Hoover’s arraignment date was unclear.

The new indictment reaffirms most of the charges Ervin had already laid, but additionally adds a conspiracy allegation and six counts in which the two men are charged with illegally transferring machine gun conversion devices that do not were not registered with the government as required by law.

These illegal transfer charges refer to separate instances where Auto Key Card products were sent to buyers who later said they learned of Ervin’s activities by seeing Hoover promoting them on his YouTube channel, a Taylor said.

Ervin has been jailed since last year on charges that a defense attorney tried to get ejected by arguing that AutoKeyCard items did not meet the legal definition of machine gun conversion devices, which the law treats as the equivalent of the machine guns themselves.

U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Morales Howard said in July it was up to the jurors to decide, though Hoover and gun rights activists treated it as a clear case of overreach of the government.

After Ervin’s arrest, Hoover went public with a GoFundMe account set up to help cover the Orange Park man’s legal fees. This account, which lists Hoover as the account organizer, raised approximately $60,000 over the next 10 months.

Hoover had described defending the case as important to preventing further restrictions on gun ownership.

“This case is incredibly important. We absolutely have to support him in every way we can,” Hoover said in a video from March. “… He absolutely can’t lose it.”