O.C. deputies find guns in probe of son threatening parents

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A man from a prominent conservative family in Orange County faces weapons charges for a cache of guns and rifles discovered by sheriff’s deputies as they were looking into reports he had threatened his parents, according to court records.

Ryan Patrick Bengard, 42, was arrested March 26 and has been charged with nine counts of possessing an assault weapon and seven counts of possessing a short-barreled shotgun, according to jail and court records.

The Sheriff’s Department announced the arrest, the alleged threats and the seizure of the weapons Saturday in a post on Twitter but didn’t identify the suspect. Carrie Braun, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department, said in an email that privacy laws prohibit the department from identifying the suspect because he possibly suffers from a medical condition.

In its Twitter post, the Sheriff’s Department wrote, “During the investigation it was determined the man may be suffering from mental illness.” Deputies from a recently formed bureau that specializes in handling suspects with possible mental illness were contacted, according to the tweet.

The Sheriff’s Department did not release details of the threats Bengard allegedly made.

Bengard, who is being held at the Theo Lacy jail in Orange on $1 million bail, has yet to enter a plea and is expected to be arraigned April 14. His attorney, Joseph Thomas Gibbons Jr., declined to comment.

Bengard is the son of Kim and Thomas Bengard, a San Clemente couple who founded a successful automobile accessories company and are prominent donors to local conservative politicians and causes.

Neither parent immediately returned phone and email messages.

Orange County Superior Court records show that a man with his father’s name sought a restraining order against Bengard on March 26, although details were not available. The man and two others with the same last name also sought restraining orders against Bengard in 2007, records show.

In 2015, after pleading guilty to misdemeanor DUI charges, Bengard was sentenced to 90 days in jail and ordered to complete an alcohol-abuse program and perform community service. He was placed on three years of informal probation, ending in 2019, according to court records.

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In 2003, Bengard pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace. A year later, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of assault and battery, according to court records.

Bengard’s mother was president as recently as last year of the Family Action political action committee, which for 20 years has given money to conservative candidates seeking seats on the county board of education, local school boards and city councils, according to records filed with the state. Most recently, the committee endorsed former state Sen. John Moorlach in his campaign for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Moorlach lost to Katrina Foley, a Democrat and former mayor of Costa Mesa.

The Bengards’ nonprofit, the It Takes a Family Foundation, has contributed to a host of causes ranging from a conservative media company to the Boys and Girls Club to an Irvine organization that opposes abortion.

The foundation gave $5,000 to the Orange County Sheriff’s Advisory Council in 2018, the most recent year for which tax records were publicly available. The advisory council has funded the construction of a peace officers’ memorial in Tustin, supported the families of officers killed in the line of duty and paid for equipment and training facilities used by Orange County law enforcement agencies, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

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