News and Press Releases

Three Lakeland Men Sentenced To Federal Prison For Selling Firearms And Drugs

July 29, 2013

Tampa, FL - U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday has sentenced three Lakeland residents to federal prison terms for various firearm and drug violations. Phillip Thomas (28) was sentenced today to three years in federal prison for transferring an unregistered short barreled shotgun and aiding and abetting a felon in possession of a firearm. On July 24, 2013, Michael Joseph Harper (25) was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for transferring an unregistered short barreled shotgun and for being a felon in possession of a firearm. On July 17, 2013, Merryday sentenced Joshua Paul Blevins (20) to 5 years’ probation for aiding and abetting a felon in possession of a firearm. Thomas, Harper and Blevins pleaded guilty to the offenses in May 2013.

According to court documents, Harper, along with Thomas and Blevins, sold multiple firearms and drugs to undercover law enforcement agents. Harper, a convicted felon, either sold or was involved in selling forty-five firearms, Hydrocodone, Xanax, and Oxycodone pills, marijuana, and cocaine. Thomas sold six firearms, including a short barreled shotgun, cocaine, Xanax, and Hydrocodone pills. Blevins assisted Harper in selling two high-powered rifles.

Thomas, Harper and Blevins were arrested during Operation “Smoke-N-Guns.” “Smoke-N-Guns” was a joint law enforcement effort that targeted convicted felons, drug dealers and gang members who were illegally possessing or selling firearms in the Lakeland area.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Lakeland Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stacie B. Harris.

This is another case prosecuted as a part of the Department of Justice’s “Project Safe Neighborhoods” program - a nationwide, gun-violence reduction strategy. Acting United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III, along with Julie Leon, Special Agent in Charge, ATF, is coordinating the Project Safe Neighborhoods effort here in the Middle District of Florida in cooperation with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.









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