MANATEE -- The Manatee Gun and Archery Club reported 38 guns and an air rifle are missing from the club after an internal investigation also found the club's manager was selling the club's firearms without the club's permission and violating federal gun control laws.
Gene Pitts, former club president and manager, has resigned as club manager. Since the onset of the investigation, he has been on a leave of absence as club president pending results of the probe into the allegations against him.
The missing guns include a shotgun, pistol and 36 assorted rifles. Their estimated retail value is $28,000, according to a news release from the club, which is located at 1805 Logue Road, Myakka City.
"The Manatee Gun & Archery Club's current leadership is doing everything in their power to make sure these guns are recovered," said Ron Chapman, president of the Chapman Law Group and attorney for the Manatee Gun & Archery Club. "The club leadership has already taken steps to ensure something like this won't happen again and they are proactively working with law enforcement to ensure those who are responsible are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office confirmed they are looking into the case.
"It's an ongoing investigation," sheriff office spokesman Dave Bristow said.
The firearms were reported to the sheriff's office as lost property, he said. An incident report lists 43 firearms as being stolen, five more than reported by the club in the news release.
The club treasurer told deputies "some firearms were listed as purchased, but no money had been received for the firearms."
None of the officials who filed the report with the sheriff's office were able to give a date for when the guns went missing and said the club hasn't kept up with its records.
The investigation was initiated after the new club treasurer detected the discrepancies in the firearm inventory in September while conducting an initial audit of the club's financial records, according to a news release. The club's audit committee and attorneys conducted the internal investigation, which ultimately identified the missing guns.
Pitts is also said to have failed to control inventory, authorized expenditures without board approval, utilized club credit cards for unauthorized purchases and made personal purchases at the club expense, according to the club.
Any gun purchases, sales, exchanges, and transfer of firearms by the club will as a result of this incident be required to go through a dealer holding a federal firearms license. Private transfer of firearms will also be prohibited on club property.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.