Facebook Exec Security Team Escapes Prosecution in Gun Permit Scandal—So Far

For apparently laundering a campaign gift, suborning acts of perjury and trying to bribe his way to a dozen concealed-gun permits, Martin Nielsen could’ve served hard time.

The go-fer for Christian West, founder and former CEO of security firm AS Solution, admitted to hatching the plan in the wake of the 2018 shooting on YouTube’s Mountain View campus. Without Nielsen, five other people wouldn’t have been suckered into a nexus of career-damaging felony indictments.

“A lot of the things changed in Silicon Valley after the YouTube shooting,” Nielsen would later testify about the impetus for the plot, according to court records obtained by San Jose Inside. “There was a shooting on the campus of Youtube—that was what we call the 9/11 of Silicon Valley, where a lot of the clients started to want to have armed personnel.”

As a point person for AS Solution’s lucrative security contract with Facebook, Nielsen had a lot riding on meeting the sudden demand. In 2018, the same year Nielsen said his executive protection firm began fielding requests for armed bodyguards, SEC records show Facebook provided personal security allowances of $10 million and $2.9 million, respectively, to CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Christian West, the former CEO of AS Solution, faces felony charges in a bribery scandal in which he claims limited involvement. (Illustration by Kathy Manlapaz)

With hidden-gun permits notoriously hard to come by in Santa Clara County—where Sheriff Laurie Smith alone has the power to grant them—Nielsen began working his way into her political network.

Through a friend, The Gun Co. CEO Michael Nichols, he met attorneys Harpaul Nahal and Christopher Schumb, who eventually introduced him to Capt. James Jensen.

From the outset, Nielsen signaled a willingness to make a large donation to boost his odds of securing the permits.

Just weeks ahead of the fall 2018 election—after about six months marked by luncheons, fundraisers and meet-and-greets—he finally wrote a $45,000 check to a pro-Smith independent expenditure committee co-managed by Schumb. He later admitted to being under the impression that it would pay off in a material way.

And when Capt. Jensen allegedly told him to falsify petitions for concealed-carry licensing, Nielsen admitted to doing that too.

Yet Nielsen seems to have dodged a bullet.

The self-professed protagonist in the alleged bribery scheme is conspicuously absent from the indictment that came on the heels of an 18-month probe sparked by San Jose Inside’s inquiry into the eye-popping political contribution.

AS Solution employees who fibbed on their permit applications under penalty of perjury also escaped prosecution—at least so far.

Instead, it’s West who faces felony counts with Schumb, Nahal, Jensen and Nichols.

Among Nielsen’s colleagues is Jack Stromgen, a former AS Solution manager whose LinkedIn profile says he began working as Facebook’s head of protective services in June 2020. Stromgen testified that Nielsen directed him to commit perjury. (Committing perjury and asking someone to do it are both distinct felonies in California.)

“I work for AS Solution, I'm being asked to put down Asgard Technologies, which is another company owned either by Christian or AS Solution, and then I was also asked to put down an address which is not where I currently live,” Stromgen told the grand jury, saying he was “concerned about falsifying information that I was submitting.”

Rachael Paskvan, another former AS Solution bodyguard who appears to have committed perjury with her paperwork, left West’s employ in September 2019, just as the District Attorney’s Office began serving search warrants in connection to the suspected pay-for-play put-up job. According to her LinkedIn page, she now serves as “manager of global protective services” at the social media giant.

Prosecutors say AS Solution bodyguards Leonard Lawrence and Jonathan Taunton also misrepresented themselves on forms for the weapons permits, providing false addresses, employer names, job duties and reasons for needing to clandestinely bear arms.

Because California sheriffs can only issue the permits to residents of their own jurisdictions, Taunton tailored his application for Santa Clara County by listing a home address of “516 Jackson Drive, Palo Alto,” which lies about two blocks away from Mark Zuckerberg’s primary residence. As he would later testify, however, Taunton actually lived farther up the Peninsula in Redwood City.

Stromgen, though he lived in the East Bay, listed a Santana Row address. Paskvan lived in San Francisco and Lawrence in Dublin, though both listed Palo Alto addresses as well.

Despite Nielsen providing what prosecutors described as shifting and contradictory statements, the AS Solution manager accused of initiating the alleged bribery conspiracy may get off with a light penalty. DA Jeff Rosen wouldn’t have a case without him.

Though Rosen and the prosecutors assigned to the case say they expect more charges against more defendants, they’ve kept quiet about who’s in their crosshairs.

“We’re not going to comment on people who aren’t already charged,” John Chase, the DA’s lead prosecutor in the case, says. “We already said that we haven’t finished filing charges in the investigation. So it could just be a matter of waiting and seeing.”

Nielsen told grand jurors he’s had conversations with Chase about a reduced penalty in exchange for implicating the others. “I could still be facing some sort of charge, possible (sic) a misdemeanor,” he said, according to the transcript.

Through a spokeswoman, AS Solution declined to say much about the case, except that West no longer works for the company and that the firm has “cooperated fully” with the DA. Executive Vice President Brian Jantzen, who succeeded West at the helm of AS Solution, has been trying to repair the company’s image.

“We plan to move forward,” he tells San Jose Inside, “committed to the highest ethical standards as we continue to fulfill our responsibilities to our clients.”

The five defendants are scheduled for an arraignment at 9am Monday.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

7 Comments

  1. Sheriff Smith, alone, has the power to grant these permits.

    So, anybody that acts on her behalf does does so with her permission and authority.

    The buck stops with her.

    Anybody want to bet that she will never face any consequences for her corruption?

    What can Rosen hope to gain by taking down her underlings?

  2. According to the information supplied in this report it seems the defendants’ “intent” to break the law emerged not from their inherent criminality but from the changed environment in their trade and the sheriff’s desire to exploit it for personal gain. Environments are subject to change in every profession, and in this case, the change was the demand for armed protection caused by a sharp increase in VIP fears. In response the defendants did not opt to break the law and arm themselves illegally, they sought out a lawful remedy that would allow them to remain in business. The “lawful remedy” provided by the sheriff’s department, which turned out to be illegal in its design, was the only remedy available to them. And for taking it they risk jail?

    Because the sheriff has chosen to illegally fashion the permit process around her best interests, how can anyone who breaks the law while complying with her process be denied their right to protection from entrapment? What Laurie Smith did to the CCW process was the equivalent of someone posting a sign directing traffic down the wrong way on a one-way street to get them to his parking lot (of course, given the risks of a crash, precautions are taken about just whose fingerprints remain on the sign).

    With tens of millions of personal protection dollars up for grabs to gun-carrying security guards it may be time to relieve the sheriff, and other elected officials, from the CCW permit process. I’d much prefer to see a permit process designed along the lines used to issue drivers licenses, where need is assumed and privilege granted according to skills and qualifications.

  3. Considering BLM and ANTIFA burning, looting and murdering their way into American history, is it any wonder the people in Silicon Valley that are fueling that fire with their profits are seeking protection from those same anarchist and communist forces. We have a Second Amendment in this country for the protection of THE PEOPLE from a tyrannical government or an insurrection that is being ignored by or run by Radicals in that Government. It is time that the state of California follow Federal law and the Second Amendment, arm its other wise helpless good citizens against the destruction of family, home, and livelihoods.
    Democrats think these anarchists’ groups will help the win more power in November, that’s foolish they will turn on you, and consume you in the end, you are just useful idiots they need to steel power.

  4. Phutanelli: Amen, yea verily. Applying for a CCW and certain rejection seems prudent. If one chooses to carry without a permit, then a rejected application bolsters the argument of no self defense alternative.

    Likewise, transporting a handgun in an unlocked container within arm’s reach ( glove box, etc.) is prohibited. A number of truck drivers and motorists have been severely beaten in freeway and street blockades by “mostly peaceful” protestors.

    Research (including CDC) indicates DGUs (defensive gun uses) prevent somewhere between 300,000 to 1.3 million victimizations each year. The vast majority are stopped when the assailant realizes the potential victim is armed – no shots fired. Guns Save Lives.

    This details what one SCC resident experienced https://medium.com/@clong/applying-for-concealed-carry-in-santa-clara-county-dd3995f80545

  5. He sounds like a cocky ass. Sad he dragged in all these other folks that just seem to just be trying to do their job.

  6. When you see a good old right wing nazi like West, from Redmond WA, come on in with his “security” you expect this stuff. All white power showing. With the wicked witch of the west encouraging it. Get rid of that racist Smith.

  7. “As a point person for AS Solution’s lucrative security contract with Facebook…”

    Mark Zuckerberg is at the center of a little world that is rife with corruption and deceit.

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