News and Press Releases

Woman Sentenced for Soliciting a Murder and Trafficking
in Firearms

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2012

ATLANTA - A woman who trafficked in firearms and asked for help to kill a person who was bothering her, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Thomas W. Thrash, to serve 10 years in federal prison for dealing firearms without a license and for soliciting a murder-for-hire.  Melissa Towana Wood, 50, of McDonough, Georgia, pleaded guilty to these charges on February 2, 2012.

Sally Quillian Yates, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said, “Gun trafficking has been on the rise in the last few years as it can be a lucrative business to sell guns on the streets.  Unfortunately, many of these guns wind up in the hands of violent criminals who then use those guns to commit crimes.  This case illustrates how dangerous illegal firearms, and the people who traffic in them, can be.”

“The evidence showed that Ms. Wood engaged in criminal conduct of the worst sort: With meticulous planning and full consideration of the consequences, Wood agreed to pay a ‘hit-man’ to brutally kill for her own selfish reasons,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Scott Sweetow. “This case clearly demonstrates ATF’s commitment to aggressively investigate all levels of violent crimes.”

“While HSI agents routinely encounter the worst individuals our society has to offer, this defendant has been found guilty of a particularly heinous crime,” said Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Atlanta. “As a trafficker in illegal weapons, Ms. Wood was prepared to trade one of those weapons with the knowledge that it would be used to take another man’s life. The sentence handed down today affirms a simple truth: Our society is safer with Ms. Woods behind bars.” Nicholson oversees HSI activities in Georgia and the Carolinas.

Wood was sentenced to 10 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release.  Wood was convicted of these charges on February 2, 2012, upon her plea of guilty.

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court:  Ms. Wood, originally from New York, came to the attention of law enforcement when they learned that she may have been selling weapons to members of a Jamaican gang.  During the course of the one month undercover investigation that followed, Wood sold approximately 14 firearms to a Confidential Informant (CI) who was working with HSI and ATF agents.  The firearms included a .40 caliber and a 9mm pistol, and an AK-47 and an SKS assault rifle. Wood claimed she had access to many more guns and even hand grenades. 

During the one month period of firearm transactions, Wood told the CI she had a problem that she needed help with.  She went on to tell the CI about a person who was bothering her, and indicated that she wanted the problem “taken care of.”  Over the course of the one month of firearms transactions, Wood repeatedly brought up the subject of her “problem person” and gave the CI information about him, including his description and workplace.  The agents, fearing that the victim might be in danger, staged a murder with the intended victim’s help.  When the CI produced photographs of the staged murder to Ms. Wood, which depicted victim as shot, Ms. Wood appeared to be happy and thanked the CI.  In fact, no one was harmed. 

 This case was investigated by Special Agents with Homeland Security Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Assistant United States Attorney Katherine M. Hoffer prosecuted the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney's Public Information Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.

 

 

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