News & Politics

Meet the Maryland Sheriff Who the Feds Say Was Involved in a Weird Gun Scheme

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins will be arraigned Wednesday on charges that he helped a gun dealer fraudulently acquire fully automatic weapons.

Chuck Jenkins during protests in Thurmont, Maryland, in 2012. Photograph by Flickr user Craig Shipp.

A federal grand jury indicted Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins last week. Its indictment alleges he took part in a scheme in which a firearms dealer would purchase machine guns for the purpose of demonstrating them to Jenkins’s department, when in fact he bought them to rent to customers.

That dealer, Robert Justin Krop, is the principal owner of a range in Frederick called the Machine Gun Nest, which offers on-site rentals of fully automatic weapons, among other guns. Access to such weapons built or imported to the US after 1986 is tightly controlled by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Dealers can apply to the ATF to import fully automatic weapons to demonstrate them to law enforcement agencies that are considering purchasing them.

The feds allege that Jenkins signed fraudulent documents on department letterhead that Krop prepared so he could acquire fully automatic guns between 2015 and 2022. No demonstrations were provided, the indictment says. Krop also provided political support to Jenkins, who was reelected last year to serve a fifth term.

Via department spokesperson Todd Wivell, Jenkins declined to comment. He’s scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday in US District Court in Maryland and intends to continue serving in his role. The department has no comment on why Jenkins is staying on while he’s under indictment, Wivell says. Jenkins, Wivell said in a news conference last week, had known he was under investigation for at least a year.

Jenkins was a divisive figure in Frederick before the indictment. Here are a few facts about him:

He’s a “constitutional sheriff”

Members of the “constitutional sheriff” movement believe that US sheriffs have authority that supersedes that of state or federal government. Jenkins is a member of two “constitutional sheriff” groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports. “Constitutional sheriffs” believe they are able to selectively enforce laws based on their interpretation of whether they comport with the US Constitution. “Constitutional sheriffs” have declined to enforce gun laws, inserted themselves into election law, and fought Covid restrictions.

He considers immigration law part of his job

Jenkins partnered with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the Trump administration to house detainees suspected of being in the US illegally. He’s been a frequent guest on right-wing TV, where he’s linked immigration to crime, and he visited the US’s southern border under the auspices of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers a hate group.

That immigration focus has cost Frederick some $$$

Jenkins apologized and the county paid $125,000 after his department detained a woman in 2019 for more than an hour, ostensibly about a broken tail light, while deputies checked her immigration status. The department and the county had to pay $100,000 settlement in 2020 to a woman whom deputies arrested after approaching her on her lunch break and demanding to see her ID. The resulting arrest caused her to be separated from her children for a month.

His relationship with Trumpworld appears to be pretty good

Jenkins has boasted about his frequent access to former President Trump and has visited Mar-a-Lago, where he posed for a photo with urine-fixated congresswoman Lauren Boebert.

He provided a police escort for the trucker convoy

Jenkins arranged for his department to lead the trucker convoy protest of March 2022 down I-70 as it failed its way toward DC last year.  “We would do this for any convoy,” Jenkins told the Washington Times.



Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.