Drug-Using Gun Thief Pleads Guilty to Violating Federal Firearms Laws
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - A resident of Irvona, Pa., pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of violating federal firearms laws, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
"We in the U.S. Department of Justice are working to ensure that every appropriate resource is focused on preventing gun violence and keeping firearms out of the hands of prohibited persons. One of the ways illegal guns get into the hands of criminals is when illegal drug users trade guns that have been bought or stolen for controlled substances," said U.S. Attorney Hickton. "In this case, the defendant was a prescription drug abuser who stole 72 firearms from his employer, a federally- licensed firearms dealer, and either sold them for cash to purchase drugs or traded them to acquire drugs. Fortunately, the vast majority of the firearms have been recovered."
"ATF's priority is protecting our neighborhoods from violent crime. Public safety is threatened when firearms are diverted from lawful commerce to the criminal element," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Donald Robinson of the ATF Philadelphia Field Division. "Individuals who traffic in firearms or criminally possess firearms will be targeted and arrested by ATF in our continued efforts to prevent and reduce firearms related violence in our communities."
Justin D. McElheny, 35, pleaded guilty to two counts before United States District Judge Kim R. Gibson.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that from Dec. 2007 to Oct. 15, 2011, McElheny stole 72 firearms, including revolvers, pistols and rifles of various calibers, from East Coast Gun Sales. In addition, during the same time McElheny was in possession of the stolen firearms, he was an unlawful user of Percocet, Oxycontin, Roxicet and Vicodin.
Judge Gibson scheduled sentencing for June 27, 2013 at 9:30 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Pending sentencing, the Judge released the defendant on $25,000 unsecured bond. Assistant United States Attorney John J. Valkovci, Jr., is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Allegheny Township Police Department conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of McElheny.
According to Mr. Hickton, McElheny is being prosecuted as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a collaborative effort by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and communities to prevent, deter, and prosecute gun crime.