A spokesperson for the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said Sheriff Charles “Chuck” Jenkins has no plans to step down or scale back his duties after a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment accusing him and a local gun dealer of illegally acquiring machine guns.

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Todd Wivell said Jenkins has known he was under investigation for more than a year and was fully cooperating, but the indictment came as a surprise to the rest of the agency. Asked why the sheriff was not stepping down, Wivell said Jenkins feels he can still do the job.

“We still believe in him,” Wivell told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference Wednesday afternoon.

One reporter, citing the frequent practice of placing deputies on administrative duties when they are accused of a crime, asked why that standard did not apply to Jenkins. Wivell responded, “Every situation is different.”

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Jenkins, 66, is accused of conspiring with local gun dealer Robert Krop, 36, to take advantage of an exemption to a federal ban on machine guns that allows the firearms to be used in law enforcement demonstrations.

Using sheriff’s office letterhead, Jenkins and Krop conspired to obtain machine guns for “evaluation and demonstration” that they instead intended to rent out to customers, according to the indictment. Krop, who owns an indoor gun range called “The Machine Gun Nest,” was also charged with illegal possession of machine guns. The Machine Gun Nest appeared to still be up and running on Wednesday afternoon.

Jenkins, a Republican, was elected in 2006 and most recently reelected last year, even though Frederick County voted for Democrat Wes Moore in the governor’s race. He has gained notoriety for casting himself as part of the “constitutional sheriff” movement that resisted federal authority on COVID-19 regulations, election results, and gun policy. A 2022 article by The Marshall Project quoted Jenkins as questioning whether his deputies would ever be “facing off with a federal agency at gunpoint,” adding: “I hope not.”

Jenkins and Krop did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

The conspiracy to illegally purchase machine guns spanned August 2015 to May 2022, according to the indictment.

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The Machine Gun Nest made over $100,000 in profits from machine gun rentals in 2018 and 2019, according to the indictment, which said that the business offered political support to Jenkins.

“I am reaching out in hopes to set up a meeting with you to discuss the upcoming election cycle and talk about what we can do to support your re-election as sheriff in Frederick,” read a May 2022 email from the Machine Gun Nest’s chief operating officer, published in the indictment. “We have appreciated everything that you have done for the city of Frederick as well as you support for the second amendment and our business.”

The indictment also accuses the pair of crafting letters that falsely stated the machine guns were “perfectly suitable for use as a law enforcement weapon, due to cost, availability and its use in day to day patrol as well as special operations.”

In fact, at least one of the machine guns was belt-fed and only suitable for combat, the indictment says.

bconarck@thebaltimorebanner.com

Ben Conarck is a criminal justice reporter focusing on law enforcement for The Baltimore Banner. Previously, he covered healthcare and investigations for the Miami Herald and criminal justice for the Florida Times-Union. 

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