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Pistol seized amid search in house-swindling case

Investigators searching the home of accused swindler Lonni Ashlock seized a semiautomatic assault pistol similar to the one used in the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999.

Officers on Jan. 18 also recovered numerous files, binders and financial and property documents from Ashlock's Waterford home, according to search documents made public Wednesday.

They seized items from the Salida home of former business partner Ronald Buhler and the office of associate Stacey Monaghan in Denair, the documents say. Monaghan faces no charges.

Ashlock, Buhler and Sue Walls, a notary public who recorded some transactions, each face 56 felony counts of fraud and grand theft. Authorities say the men gained the trust of vulnerable people facing foreclosure, then tricked them into signing over property deeds.

Officers had searched the defendants' homes two years ago, and a judge in November ordered them to stand trial on 15 felony counts. Prosecutors say they since have uncovered more victims and recently added the extra charges, which required the second search, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Some alleged new victims told investigators they never meant to sell their homes for pennies on the dollar, district attorney investigator Kevin Bertalotto wrote in the search application. Testimony at the trio's fall preliminary hearing painted many victims as sick, disabled, elderly or mentally ill.

"The evidence discovered during my investigation (is) indicative of an ongoing criminal conspiracy of taking unfair advantage while acting as foreclosure consultants," Bertalotto wrote.

Intratec TEC-9 pistols such as the one seized from Ashlock's home are commonly associated with street and gang violence.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold used a TEC-DC9, a 9 mm carbine and two shotguns to kill 15 students at Columbine High in 1999.

Also seized from Ashlock's home was literature on "financial abuse of mentally impaired elders," Bertalotto wrote.

Ashlock, Buhler and Walls are scheduled to be arraigned on the additional charges on April 4.

To comment, click on the link with this story at www.modbee.com. Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or gstapley@modbee.com.

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