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Former Carter County sheriff and deputy sentenced for possession and sale of stolen firearms

July 9, 2012

Cape Girardeau, MO - TOMMY LEE ADAMS, former Sheriff of Carter County, Missouri, was sentenced to 120 months in prison on two felony counts of possession of stolen firearms, one felony count of sale of a stolen firearm and one felony count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm. Former Deputy Sheriff STEFFANIE KEARBEY, was sentenced to 60 months in prison on one felony count of possession of stolen firearms and one felony count of sale of a stolen firearm. All sentences were ordered to run concurrently. Both appeared before United States District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr., in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

On December 24, 2009, while acting as Sheriff of Carter County, Adams responded to a complaint at a residence. A subsequent search revealed a large number of firearms. Adams knew the owner of the residence was a convicted felon and could not lawfully possess the firearms. At Adams' direction, Carter County Deputies collected the firearms and, instead of maintaining all of the firearms as evidence as Adams was obligated to do as Sheriff, he and Deputy Kearbey kept most of the firearms at Kearbey's residence and later sold them.

On April 2, 2011, Kearbey sold one of the firearms to a confidential informant for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. As a result of a search of her residence, law enforcement officers discovered 12 firearms, including five of the firearms stolen during the December 24, 2009, search. Authorities also recovered coins, knives and jewelry that had been taken in a separate burglary. Kearbey admitted she had taken the coins from a rural Carter County residence at the direction of Adams.

Federal and State authorities also searched Adams' residence located in Carter County, where they recovered 14 firearms, including a .243 Remington rifle that had been stolen during a February 6, 2010, burglary. Adams admitted he knew the firearm was stolen because he had arranged for the burglary and had actually driven another individual to the residence to commit the burglary.

Adams also admitted that between December 2009 and April 2011, he sold a number of firearms which were stolen during burglaries he had directed or of which he had knowledge.

With the plea, Adams and Kearbey admitted that during the time they possessed the firearms they were unlawful users of controlled substances, including methamphetamine. They both also admitted to using methamphetamine while in uniform and while on duty. Some of the methamphetamine they used had been seized during investigations or removed from the Sheriff's evidence locker.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Assistant United States Attorney Larry H. Ferrell handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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