Kind Of Shocking That They Sought An Indictment

I subscribe to press releases from various BATFE Field Divisions. I got one from the Chicago Field Division yesterday that kind of shocked me.

They actually sought an indictment against someone for lying on the Form 4473 and facilitating a straw purchase.

Matthew D. Krueger, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Hanna N. DeCicco (age 22) of Milwaukee with Making a False Statement to a Federal Firearms Dealer, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(a)(6) and 924(a)(2) on July 10, 2019.

DeCicco is charged with one count of being a straw purchaser of firearm. She knowningly made a false and fictitious that she was the actual buyer of the firearm, when in fact, she was acquiring the firearm for someone else. DeCicco faces a maximum of ten years of imprisonment, three years of supervised released, and a $250,000 fine. 

This case is being prosecuted as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative. Project Safe Neighborhoods is a federal, state, and local law enforcement collaboration to identify, investigate, and prosecute individuals responsible for violent crimes in our neighborhoods. Project Safe Neighborhoods’ strategy brings together all levels of law enforcement and community resources to reduce violent crime and improve the quality of life in all our neighborhoods.

Do you know how rare something like that actually is? It is usually near the bottom of a Federal prosecutor’s agenda. At least it was during the Obama years.

This NPR report from 2015 noted that straw buyers were rarely prosecuted.

Many licensed gun dealers are concerned that straw purchasers are rarely prosecuted, says Lawrence Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“The law says that somebody could go to jail for up to 10 years and face a fine of up to $250,000. Why that doesn’t happen more often is a question for, you know, the federal judiciary and the Department of Justice,” Keane says.

Bouchard, who retired from the ATF in 2007, admits charging straw buyers falls towards the bottom of federal prosecutors’ priority lists. He says the cases are difficult to win and resources are limited.

However, that has started to change as the Trump Administration has decided not to ignore those crimes. In the last year of the Obama Administration, only 111 people were charged with false statements on the Form 4473. By contrast, in the first seven months of FY 2019, the Department of Justice had already charge 167 people with making false statements.

The number is still low in comparison to the other Federal prosecutions involving weapons but it is on the rise. Frankly, I don’t have a problem with going after straw purchasers.

As an aside, Ms. DeCicco needs to clean her Facebook page up. An Assistant US Attorney is going to love this comment from December.

Somebody’s gonna take these games to far & end up gettin popped.

An Impertinent Question In The Wake Of The Call For Universal Checks

I suppose it is impertinent to ask why we need universal background checks when the Obama Administration won’t even prosecute cases involving straw purchases. The correct answer is that we don’t. These laws, if passed, will become another of what Michael Bane calls “flypaper laws”. That is, laws that make it difficult not to violate the law.

Fox New’s William LaJeunesse, who did superb reporting of Project Gunwalker, now turns his attention to the lack of enforcement of the law against straw purchases. In 2010, only 62 people were prosecuted for it and only 13 were convicted or pled guilty. This lack of prosecutions led Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and the Republican members of that committee to send a letter last week to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder asking why they weren’t bringing prosecutions for violation of the existing law.

You can see the video of LaJeunesse’s report here.

Are These The Only Guns That DIDN’T Walk To Mexico?

Late last week, ATF issued a press release in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. It concerned eight men who were sentenced for their participation in straw purchases of firearms that were to be smuggled across the Texas border into Mexico.

To somewhat paraphrase Sean Sorrentino, are these the only guns that didn’t walk to Mexico?

Members of Ring Convicted of Lying to Buy Firearms Bound for Mexico Sentenced

McALLEN, Texas — Eight members of ring convicted of lying to buy firearms bound for Mexico have been sentenced to prison terms, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

United States District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Juan Manuel Barrientos–Lopez, 29, an undocumented alien from Mexico; Andres Alvarez, 24, of Alamo, Texas; Armando Bravo II, aka Peanut, 22, Romulo Longoria, 21, Greg Palacios, 19, Ruben Ramirez III, 20, all of San Juan, Texas; as well as Alan Ramirez, 20, and Michael Anthony Salazar, 20, both of McAllen, to varying prison terms for their roles in a straw purchasing scheme to acquire firearms bound for Mexico. All eight men pleaded guilty on various dates in March and April 2011 to lying on the ATF Form 4473 when they falsely represented themselves to be the “actual owner” of varying types of automatic weapons they were buying for another earlier this year.

The charges and subsequent convictions are the result of an investigation initiated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) after Alvarez purchased multiple AR–15 type rifles in June 2010. Through their investigation, agents learned that Alvarez had been recruited to make the firearm purchases by Bravo because, as convicted felon, Bravo is prohibited by federal law from possessing much less purchasing a firearm. It was later discovered that Alan Ramirez, when he realized that Bravo could not purchase firearms, allegedly recruited Bravo to recruit other straw purchases. Alan Ramirez also recruited Salazar. In addition to his role of a recruiter, Alan Ramirez personally straw purchased 19 firearms for Barrientos–Lopez. Barrientos–Lopez, who was found to be the head of the straw purchasing ring, was present in the United States illegally could not possess let alone purchase firearms. In an attempt to satisfy the orders for firearms placed by Barrientos–Lopez, Bravo then recruited Ruben Ramirez, Palacios and Longoria. Bravo obtained cash for each of these “recruits” to purchase the firearms then paid each of them approximately $200 for each firearm they purchased.

Barrientos–Lopez, originally charged by criminal complaint in October 2010, was taken into custody following a high speed chase after straw purchased firearms had been delivered to him. The other seven defendants were named and charged in various counts of a 14–count superseding indictment returned by a grand jury in January 2011. All eight defendants pleaded guilty to lying to buy a variety of semi–automatic firearms at federally licensed firearms dealers in McAllen, Mission and/or Pharr, Texas, between May and October 2010.

At today’s hearing, Judge Crane held Barrientos–Lopez, as the organization’s head, responsible for the purchase of a total of 38 AK–47 and AR–15 type rifles purchased by the ring and sentenced him to 60 months, the maximum sentence allowed by law, in federal prison. Alvarez was sentenced to 48 months imprisonment, while Bravo received 60 months. Longoria, Palacios, Alan Ramirez and Salazar were each sentenced to 30 months while Ruben Ramirez was sentenced to 33 months. With the exception of Alan Ramirez, who has been permitted to remain on bond until the issuance of an order to surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service on September 6, 2011, all other defendants have been in custody since either arrest or conviction.

All have been further sentenced to serve a 3–year–term of supervised release upon completion of their prison terms. Barrientos–Lopez is subject to deportation upon release from prison due to his illegal status in the United States.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Schammel.

 As a postscript, I have received my Gunwalker T-shirt from Sean and I can highly recommend it. The shirt is substantial and the printing job is first-rate.

The Straw Buyers In Fast And Furious

Back in January, the BATFE announced with great fanfare that they had broken up a large straw purchasing and smuggling operation. The U.S. Attorney indicted 20 straw buyers. As William LaJeunesse of FoxNews reports, only one of those charged with straw purchases – a felony which carries a 10-year sentence – is still in prison. The rest were let out on bail within 24 hours of their indictment.

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