Frederick County Sheriff pleads not guilty in alleged machine guns scheme

Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges that he conspired with a gun range owner to illegally buy machine guns.

During the court appearance Wednesday, the judge ordered Jenkins, 66, to surrender his firearms, as a condition of his pre-trial release. When talking about the decision, prosecutor Leo Wise cited similar cases where law enforcement officials needed to surrender firearms, like former Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa and former Taneytown Police Chief William Tyler.

Aside from Jenkins, the indictment also charges Robert Justin Krop, age 36, of Frederick, Maryland. It claims that the two men conspired and made false statements in order to acquire machine guns illegaly. Krop, who is the principal owner and operator of firearms-related businesses in Frederick County, is also charged with illegal possession of machine guns.

As detailed in the indictment, Krop and his businesses held up to two Federal Firearms Licenses ("FFLs") that allowed Krop and the business, under certain circumstances, to possess and deal in machine guns.

The six-count indictment alleges that from August 2015 to May 2022, Jenkins and Krop conspired to unlawfully purchase machine guns and falsified multiple documents on the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office letterhead requesting machine guns for evaluation and demonstration to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.

Krop allegedly drafted these documents for Jenkins’ signature. According to the indictment, Jenkins and Krop knew that there would not be a demonstration of the machine guns to the Sheriff’s Office and that the machine guns were intended for rental to Krop’s customers.

Krop also allegedly illegally possessed seven machine guns. The indictment further alleges that Krop’s business offered political support to Jenkins in recognition of his support for the business.

Despite the charges, Sheriff Jenkins indicated last week that he has no plans to step down and will continue to lead the department. On Wednesday, however, Jenkins said that he will be taking a leave of absence as the case plays out. Jenkins has been the Sheriff of Frederick County since his election in 2006 and was most recently re-elected in 2022.

"Out of respect for the men and women of this agency and not to interfere with the effective operations, I am going to take a leave of absence, effective end of business, Friday, April 14, through the end of this judicial process," said Jenkins. "I have full confidence in the system, and I know that my innocence will prevail at the end of all of this and that I will be found not guilty."

During the leave of absence, FCSO Chief Deputy Colonel David Benjamin will assume the delegation of authority from Jenkins. Benjamin is a 37-year veteran of the department.

If convicted, Jenkins and Krop will face a maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison. Krop also faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for the unlawful possession of a machine gun.