TWO CHESTERTOWN MEN INDICTED FOR CONSPIRING TO ILLEGALLY OBTAIN FIREARMS FOR A PROHIBITED PERSON
Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury has indicted Daniel P. Welch, age 36, of Crumpton and Chestertown, Maryland, and Jonathan M. Sutton, age 36, of Chestertown, on charges of conspiring to unlawfully obtain firearms for a prohibited person. The indictment also charges Welch with being a felon in possession of firearms. The indictment was returned on October 22, 2014.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Queen Anne’s County Sheriff R. Gary Hofmann III; Chief George A. Baker of the Chestertown Police Department; and Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney Lance G. Richardson.
The four count indictment alleges that Welch is a previously convicted felon and therefore is prohibited from possessing firearms. According to the indictment, between January 29, 2011 and January 31, 2014, Sutton obtained six firearms for Welch through private sellers and through “straw purchases” by Sutton from a federally licensed firearms dealer. A “straw purchase” occurs when an individual, who is ineligible to lawfully purchase a firearm, such as a previously convicted felon, solicits another to conduct the transaction. As part of the purchase, the middleman-buyer must complete the ATF Form 4473, which notifies the buyer that such purchases are unlawful. On the first page of the form, the buyer is asked: “Are you the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm . . .?” The question is followed by a warning in bold print that states: “Warning: You are not the actual buyer if you are acquiring the firearm(s) on behalf of another person.” Finally, the buyer’s certification explicitly states that falsely answering “yes” to the actual buyer question is a crime punishable as a felony.
Specifically, the indictment alleges that on January 29, 2011, Welch and Sutton visited four ATMs in Stevensville, Maryland, near a federally licensed firearms dealer, and Welch withdrew approximately $1,700 in cash. Welch and Sutton then went to the firearms dealer and selected firearms for Sutton to purchase for Welch. Sutton purchased a Smith & Wesson MP5-22, a Mossberg Persuada 500, and a Century Arms SKS. Sutton completed Form 4473 indicating the he was the actual buyer of the firearms and was not acquiring the firearms for another person. On February 1, 2011, Sutton picked up the guns, which he then transferred to Welch. According to the indictment, on February 11, 2011, Sutton purchased a Marlin rifle from the firearms dealer, again completing the Form 4473 and falsely indicting that he was buying the gun for himself. In 2012, Sutton acquired a Remington Arms 597 and a Ruger Single Six, both .22 caliber, through private purchases. The indictment alleges those guns were subsequently possessed by Welch.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy and Welch faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each of three counts of being a felon in possession for a firearm. An initial appearance has been scheduled for Sutton on November 7, 2014 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. No court appearance has been scheduled for Welch, who is currently in state custody on unrelated charges.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI, Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office, Chestertown Police Department and the Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Zachary A. Myers, who is prosecuting the case.