Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2007 | After La Jolla billionaire Ernest Rady’s home was invaded this year, the Rady family hired a consultant to draw up a comprehensive security plan for the entire family.
For Ernest Rady’s 40-year-old son, Harry, the consultant suggested keeping several armed guns in gun safes located in strategic spots around the sprawling La Jolla mansion where Harry lives with his wife and two children.
But Harry Rady went too far in arming himself and his family against possible intruders.
On May 2, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents raided the detached garage of Harry Rady’s home. They pulled out an arsenal of weapons including eight rifles, two 12-gauge shotguns, six pistols, assorted military smoke grenades and pyrotechnics and assorted steroids and syringes, according to court documents.
At least six of those weapons, including three semi-automatic Romanian AK-47s, are illegal in California and had been purchased from Arizona by Rady’s friend. It is against federal law to import firearms across state lines without a license.
Rady was charged with one count of receiving firearms without a license and entered a guilty plea last month. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Rady is expected to spend at least one year in jail.
“Harry did not realize how serious it is for a California resident to buy guns in another state, and he is very sorry and embarrassed,” wrote Rady’s attorney, Robert Grimes, in an e-mail. “He also hopes that the publicity surrounding the case does not create additional danger for his family.”
The investigation that resulted in the raid at Rady’s home plays out in court documents, including the search warrant for Rady’s property.
Those documents show that Scott Wakelin, an ATF agent, was contacted in early April by a detective in Yuma, Ariz.
The Arizona detective told Wakelin that a man named Jason Bornholdt had purchased eight weapons from a gun shop in Yuma, and had arranged for additional weapons to be ordered from South Carolina. The detective said that Bornholdt had told the gun shop owners that he was a resident of Arizona — a prerequisite for anyone buying a weapon legally in that state.
But, according to the court documents, Bornholdt had slipped up when he gave the store contact telephone numbers beginning with 619. The Arizona detective had done some checking up and found that Bornholdt actually resided in El Cajon. She called ATF in San Diego.
The court documents show that Wakelin discovered Bornholdt had a history of buying guns in Arizona, but that he actually resided in California. Wakelin also found that Bornholdt had 18 firearms registered to him.
Wakelin and other ATF agents began surveillance on Bornholdt in mid-April.
On the morning of May 1, according to the court documents, an agent saw Bornholdt leave his El Cajon residence in a black BMW. About three hours later, Wakelin got a call from the Arizona detective, who said Bornholdt had just arrived in Yuma to pick up the guns and ammunition he had ordered.
The court documents state that Bornholdt then traveled back to San Diego, and ATF agents saw him meet at a La Jolla restaurant with another man who they identified as Adrio Ritelli, an employee of Harry Rady. The documents state that Ritelli picked up the guns and took them to Rady’s home, where he stored them in the garage.
The next day, ATF executed a search warrant and found Rady’s weapons and steroids.
Rady’s plea agreement states that he paid Bornholdt $10,000 to drive to Arizona and pick up the weapons. Gun experts said those guns are legal in many states, but cannot be bought or owned in California.
In February, Ernest Rady, his wife, Evelyn, and their housekeeper were attacked with a stun gun and tied up in an upstairs bedroom while a man searched their La Jolla Shores home. Ernest Rady, a well-known philanthropist, had given millions of dollars to local charities including the Rady Children’s Hospital. The thief reportedly stole just $43.
Michael McCabe, Bornholdt’s attorney, said his client, who runs a contracting business, met Rady when he did some construction work at his residence. The two shared an enthusiasm for collecting firearms and became good friends, McCabe said.
After his parents’ ordeal, McCabe said, Harry Rady told Bornholdt that he wanted to buy some guns to protect his residence. McCabe said Bornholdt volunteered to travel to Arizona to pick up some firearms for Rady.
“He didn’t realize the severity of the penalties involved,” McCabe said of his client. “Mr. Bornholdt felt he was doing his friend a favor and, with the money he received, he didn’t make a profit.”
But Dave Douglas, editor of American Cop Magazine and an avid gun collector and firearms expert, said $10,000 was “an awful lot” to pay for the 10 guns. He said there are excellent, legal, substitutes for many of the guns Bornholdt purchased from Arizona.
“Why would someone go and get those firearms if there are weapons available that are equally good and that are legal?” Douglas said. “Why not go the safe route?”
However, Douglas pointed out that there are other restrictions to buying guns in California. For example, in California, buyers can only buy one handgun a month. In Arizona, Bornholdt bought four pistols in one trip to the gun shop. All those pistols are sold legally in California.
McCabe stressed that Bornholdt and Rady were not motivated by anything other than a wish to defend their families and their property. There was no intention of passing the weapons to criminals or terrorists or to profit from the transactions, he said.
Rady will be sentenced in October. His attorney said as part of his plea agreement, Rady can never again own or possess a firearm. Also as part of the plea agreement, federal prosecutors agreed not to charge Rady with any drug charges for the steroids found at his home.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alessandra Serrano, who prosecuted Rady, said Bornholdt is expected to enter a guilty plea on Aug. 16.
Correction: The original version of this story reported that Ernest Rady’s La Jolla home was invaded last year. The crime took place in February 2007.