PORTLAND — A Lewiston woman faces a felony charge of lying to federal agents about allegedly transporting guns from Maine to California for resale, including to people reportedly connected to a Los Angeles street gang.
Elise Bergeron, 24, is charged with making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Bergeron told federal task force officers at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that she didn’t know the real name of a person identified by ATF as “Rent,” according to an affidavit written by Dominic Cloutier, one of the task officers who spoke with Bergeron.
The person identified as “Rent” is Anthony Coleman, one of several people targeted by the federal agency for allegedly illegally purchasing firearms in Maine, then transporting them to California, Cloutier wrote.
From March to June in 2022 Jennifer Scruggs of Turner allegedly bought 55 guns for resale to people in Los Angeles, including some with ties to a gang, according to federal agents.
Scruggs had claimed to be the actual buyer, but later admitted to the “straw” purchases for Coleman and a man named Lonnel Diggs, who went by the nickname “Cash,” Cloutier wrote.
Scruggs told Cloutier that she, Coleman and her then-boyfriend, Aaron Michaud, took some of those guns to California at the end of June 2022.
Cloutier reviewed Scruggs’ Facebook account, confirming what she had told him, he wrote in his affidavit.
During his review, he learned that Scruggs had conveyed the need for a rental car a few days prior to the trip.
Cloutier discovered that Coleman had rented a car in Portland on June 18, 2022, and determined that was the car used to drive from Maine to Los Angeles.
“I also obtained a copy of the rental agreement and noted that the defendant, Elise Bergeron, was listed as a secondary driver,” Cloutier wrote.
Scruggs’ Facebook communications “made it clear” that she, Diggs, Coleman, Michaud and Bergeron had been in California together, Cloutier wrote.
Scruggs’ Facebook messages also suggested that, at one point before the trip, Scruggs and others had “contemplated having Bergeron transport the firearms instead of Scruggs,” and in that case, she would transfer ownership of the guns to Bergeron, Cloutier wrote.
A cooperating witness confirmed that Bergeron knew “there were firearms in the vehicle” that was driven to Los Angeles, Cloutier wrote.
Cloutier and an ATF agent interviewed Bergeron in December 2022 at the Lewiston Police Department.
She told them she had been in a relationship with “Rent,” but didn’t know his real name and that she’d been unaware that there had been any guns in the car they took to Los Angeles, Cloutier wrote.
Bergeron said she’d driven back to Maine with Coleman and “J” sometime in July, but that she didn’t know anyone by the name of “Cash,” Cloutier wrote.
After reviewing Coleman’s Facebook account, Cloutier learned that Bergeron knew that “Rent” was Coleman, she knew where he lived, visited him there “frequently” and even had a key to his apartment, Cloutier wrote.
She also knew that Coleman was prohibited from having firearms, but had offered to get a gun for him, Cloutier wrote.
Bergeron had sent Coleman photos shortly before the trip, picturing her debit card, and told him she had “loaded” money on it.
That account was used by Coleman to buy four plane tickets by Coleman for himself, Bergeron, Scruggs and Michaud to fly from Los Angeles to Portland on July 6, 2022, Cloutier wrote.
Scruggs and Michaud used their tickets, but Coleman’s and Bergeron’s were canceled because they failed to show up for the flight, Cloutier wrote.
In his affidavit, he wrote that Coleman, Scruggs and Michaud had taken a trip to Los Angeles in April 2022 to transport guns. Facebook messages show Bergeron had been aware of that activity, Cloutier wrote.
One day before the trio left Maine on that trip, Bergeron had spoken with Coleman, apparently about those guns, Cloutier wrote.
“Bergeron talks about how ‘they’ would be stored and offers to let Coleman borrow a suitcase. Bergeron and Coleman also discussed the difficulty Coleman was having with obtaining a rental car for the trip,” Cloutier wrote.
During his December interview with Bergeron, Cloutier asked her whether she knew where Coleman lived. She denied knowing, despite the fact that she was in a relationship with him and would bring him homecooked meals and showered at his home, according to the affidavit.
Also, despite telling agents in December that she didn’t know Diggs, or “Cash,” Facebook messages showed they were Facebook friends and that she appeared to have gone “shooting” with him, Cloutier wrote.
Bergeron was arrested earlier this month and is free on a $10,000 unsecured bond.