The Sacramento Bee - - Front Page - BY SAM STAN­TON sstan­[email protected]

A fed­eral firearms case has been dropped af­ter the lead ATF agent be­came em­broiled in a cor­rup­tion probe.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors in Sacra­mento have spent years tar­get­ing sus­pects selling ri­fles and au­to­matic weapons il­le­gally, and on Sept. 19 they filed a crim­i­nal com­plaint against four men charg­ing them with con­spir­acy to deal firearms with­out a li­cense and to trans­fer a ma­chine gun.

The case stemmed from an un­der­cover op­er­a­tion in which the fed­eral Bu­reau of Al­co­hol, Tobacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives spent more than $138,000 to buy 45 firearms and de­vices used to build “ghost guns,” un­trace­able as­sault-style ri­fles, ac­cord­ing to an af­fi­davit from ATF Spe­cial Agent Matthew C. Ry­ck­man.

Then, three weeks later, prose­cu­tors asked U.S. Magistrate Ken­dall J. New­man to dis­miss the charges and close the case “in the in­ter­ests of jus­tice.”

No fur­ther ex­pla­na­tion was given, and the case, which has be­come known to Sacra­mento-area lawyers as “the Cald­well case” be­cause of the names of two de­fen­dants, was or­dered closed Oct. 5.

Now, fed­eral sources con­firm the case was dropped be­cause of al­le­ga­tions against Ry­ck­man in a cor­rup­tion probe into ac­tiv­i­ties of of­fi­cers in the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment, where Ry­ck­man, 32, spent eight years as a pa­trol of­fi­cer, SWAT team mem­ber and de­tec­tive.

Ry­ck­man, who could not be reached for com­ment, has not been charged with any wrong­do­ing and is not sus­pected of any im­proper be­hav­ior while an ATF agent in Cal­i­for­nia, a source said.

But the Bal­ti­more Sun, as part of an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into po­lice cor­rup­tion there, re­ported Thurs­day that Ry­ck­man worked in a squad with an­other of­fi­cer in Bal­ti­more who has ad­mit­ted to drug deal­ing, rob­beries and other crimes and is serv­ing a 25-year sen­tence. A law en­force­ment source said prose­cu­tors and FBI agents from Bal­ti­more in­ter­viewed Ry­ck­man in Sacra­mento weeks ago and now are in­ves­ti­gat­ing his ac­tiv­i­ties in Mary­land.

The al­le­ga­tions against him in the Bal­ti­more case led the U.S. At­tor­ney’s in Sacra­mento to dis­miss the gun case he spear­headed here, a source said, one of five cases in Cal­i­for­nia af­fected by his in­volve­ment.

The re­main­ing four cases were re­viewed and prose­cu­tors de­cided they could pro­ceed be­cause Ry­ck­man’s in­volve­ment was not as ex­ten­sive as in the one that was dis­missed, one law en­force­ment source told The Bee.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors no­ti­fied de­fense at­tor­neys in those cases of the is­sue, the source added, and they are now look­ing into Ry­ck­man’s in­volve­ment with their clients.

“We are ap­palled that

some­one like this could make his way onto ATF,” First As­sis­tant Fed­eral De­fender Ben Gal­loway told The Bee Fri­day. “The Cald­well case is one of at least five in the district in­volv­ing Ry­ck­man.

“We are work­ing with the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, and in­de­pen­dently, to en­sure his role in each case is fully un­der­stood, and we will seek cor­rec­tive ac­tion where ap­pro­pri­ate.”

An­other de­fense at­tor­ney who rep­re­sented a de­fen­dant in the Cald­well case said prose­cu­tors never told him why they sud­denly de­cided to drop the case.

“Once my guy got dis­missed I didn’t even care,” at­tor­ney Mike Hansen said. “My im­me­di­ate thought was, it’s a bad cop, not that that hap­pens very of­ten. It’s cer­tainly never hap­pened to me be­fore.”

Ry­ck­man is no longer with the ATF, and a spokes­woman with the agency’s San Fran­cisco field of­fice de­clined to pro­vide any de­tails about his de­par­ture.

“Matthew Ry­ck­man was an ATF em­ployee from Au­gust 21, 2016, to Septem­ber 27, 2018,” the agency said in an email. “He was a Spe­cial Agent un­der the di­rec­tion of the San Fran­cisco Field Divi­sion.”

But the Bal­ti­more Sun, in a story pub­lished on­line Thurs­day, re­ported that Ry­ck­man has been ac­cused of ly­ing in po­lice re­ports and steal­ing money. The Sun also re­ported that Ry­ck­man de­clined to com­ment.

A source told The Bee that Ry­ck­man told the FBI he had been in­volved in fal­si­fy­ing re­ports while in Bal­ti­more, but em­pha­sized that no such ac­tiv­i­ties oc­curred while he worked cases in Cal­i­for­nia and that au­thor­i­ties in Sacra­mento learned of the Bal­ti­more al­le­ga­tions from fed­eral agents based there.

McGre­gor Scott, the U.S. at­tor­ney for the Sacra­mento-based East­ern District of Cal­i­for­nia, con­firmed that his of­fice in­ves­ti­gated Ry­ck­man’s ac­tiv­i­ties closely.

“We take our eth­i­cal du­ties as prose­cu­tors to pro­tect the sanc­tity of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem with the ut­most se­ri­ous­ness,” Scott said. “Be­cause of ques­tions that were raised about Mr. Ry­ck­man’s cred­i­bil­ity based on events which took place in Bal­ti­more, we proac­tively dis­missed the Cald­well mat­ter.

“We have done a thor­ough re­view to en­sure our­selves that no sim­i­lar mis­con­duct took place while he was work­ing as an ATF agent in the East­ern District of Cal­i­for­nia.”

To date, the Bal­ti­more scan­dal has led to the con­vic­tions of eight of­fi­cers in rack­e­teer­ing cases, The Sun re­ported. Two fed­eral cases there in which Ry­ck­man was the ar­rest­ing of­fi­cer have been re­ac­ti­vated, ac­cord­ing to The Sun, which re­ported that Ry­ck­man was the ar­rest­ing of­fi­cer in 300 cases that pro­ceeded to court.

JOHN WALKER Fresno Bee file

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials con­fer next to weapons seized from gang mem­bers af­ter a press con­fer­ence at po­lice head­quar­ters, Tues­day morn­ing, May 1, 2018.

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