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Former Texas dealership employees face charges over illegal firearms sales

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Two men are facing criminal charges over the sale of firearms off a car dealership lot in Hutto, Texas, about 30 miles northeast of Austin.

Craig Tondre, 42, formerly a sales manager at Covert Ford Hutto, part of the Texas-based Covert Auto Group, was arrested in April on suspicion of illegally selling weapons and ammunition. Tondre worked with another dealership employee, 44-year-old Joshua Ellard, to sell them, according to criminal complaints filed April 6 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. Ellard was also arrested that month.

Tondre is charged with dealing firearms without a license, while Ellard — who was previously convicted in Florida of second-degree murder — is charged as a felon in possession of a firearm and a machine gun.

Tondre and Ellard were fired “immediately after management was informed of their arrests on allegations of selling illegal firearms,” Covert Auto Group said in a statement last week to KXAN-TV. The group said management and owners didn’t know about any of the alleged activities before the men’s arrests.

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On multiple occasions, Ellard sold firearms and ammunition to undercover Austin Police Department officers, according to the complaints.

Two different Austin detectives on separate occasions in February and March bought a silencer, 100 rounds of ammunition and four rifles from Ellard, according to the complaints. Before and during the transactions, Ellard made comments about checking with Tondre, his boss, on what was available to sell, the complaints allege.

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Tondre wasn’t physically there for any of the transactions, but officers conducting surveillance saw him moving a rifle from his residence to the dealership, according to the complaints.

Ellard allegedly agreed to a purchase at Tondre’s residence on March 31, and while there, a detective saw a large safe containing about 10 firearms. That transaction is what ultimately confirmed Tondre’s involvement and led to his arrest, according to the complaints.

Tondre and Ellard were released on bond in mid-April.

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