A federal jury has convicted the ringleader of a gun trafficking scheme that spanned from Berkeley, California, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Following a five-day trial, prosecutors were able to establish that the leader worked with several co-conspirators to recruit Berkeley-based defendants to purchase guns on his behalf in exchange for payment. While making these purchases, the co-conspirators falsified several federal documents and weapon applications indicating that they were the purchasers of the guns. Over nearly a year, they then slowly transported these guns to the Ringleader in Philadelphia. Of the 140 firearms trafficked, 45 were connected to crime scenes in the greater Philadelphia area, including homicides, domestic violence incidents, and other violent offenses. The ringleader now faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, and his co-conspirators have been charged with numerous federal offenses.
What is Straw Purchasing?
The term straw purchasing refers to someone buying a firearm for another person who may not legally buy or possess a gun. A common example of this crime occurs when an ineligible person asks a friend or family member who can legally own firearms to purchase one on their behalf. This is referred to as ‘straw purchasing' since the true owner of the gun makes false statements (i.e., lies about their identity) in order for another person to complete the transaction—which includes filling out all required forms for buying firearms from a federally licensed dealer (FFL). Gun laws can be confusing, and defendants may be engaged in a straw purchasing scheme without knowledge of the larger criminal structure at play. Straw purchasing may occur when the person seeking to purchase the guns is:
- Seeking to purchase them from an unlicensed dealer:
- Unable to purchase the guns themselves due to their own criminal record or government clearances; or
- Does not want the weapon traced back to them.
Penalties for Straw Purchases in Pennsylvania
§6111(g) of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act prohibits the “transfer” of firearms to a prohibited person. To prosecute a straw purchase, the prosecutor must first prove that the individual receiving the firearm is prohibited from owning one as a matter of law and then that he or she either knowingly consented to, or acquiesced in, allowing someone else to make such transfer on his or her behalf. Weapon charges in Pennsylvania can be very serious and often result in long prison sentences. Depending on the facts, penalties may include:
- 1 to 2 years in prison and/or up to $5,000.00 in fines if charged as a misdemeanor; and
- 3.5 to 7 years in prison and/or up to $15,000.00 in fines if charged as a 3rd-degree felony
Straw purchasers may also face charges of conspiracy crimes as well as criminal negligence.
Facing Straw Purchasing Charges in Pennsylvania?
Straw purchasing is a serious crime that can lead to long-term incarceration and hefty fines. If you have been accused of this offense, contact attorney Joseph. D. Lento and his Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm. Attorney Lento is experienced, skilled, meticulous, and routinely works with courts and prosecutors to mitigate serious felony offenses. Contact us today by using our online contact form or by calling 888.535.3686.