Former Correctional Officer Pleads Guilty to Dealing in Firearms Without a License
Contact Person: William Witherspoon (803) 929-3000
COLUMBIA, SC – United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated that William Andrew Cox, age 56, of South Congaree, in Lexington County, South Carolina entered a guilty plea in federal court in Columbia, to willfully dealing in firearms without a license, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(a)(1)(A). Senior United States District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie of Columbia accepted the guilty plea and will impose sentence after she has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) became aware that Cox was purchasing a large number of firearms from several local gun stores. Two of these firearms were retrieved after an arrest during a Hells Angels roundup. A defendant in the Hells Angels case purchased two (2) pistols (a 9mm and .45 caliber) from Cox from an online website, Armslist.com, that Cox had been using to advertise firearms for sale. These firearms were then sold to members of the Hells Angels who then sold them to law enforcement agents. Both pistols were bought by Cox and sold to ATF within three (3) weeks of Cox purchasing them. Another firearm bought by Cox was found in Trinidad about 117 days after it was purchased by Cox. This firearm was used in a violent crime in Trinidad.
According to ATF records which are completed upon the purchase of a firearm from a federally licensed dealer, between March 2009 (when Cox was terminated from the South Carolina Department of Corrections) and August 2012, Cox purchased more than 150 firearms. During this time period, on thirty-one (31) different occasions, Cox purchased two (2) or more firearms, some of the same manufacturer, type, caliber and model.
Thereafter, ATF used an undercover informant and undercover agent to make a purchase of two (2) firearms from Cox. The undercover informant placed an order with Cox for a specific pistol and rifle. Three days later, the informant and the agent met with Cox at his home and acquired these firearms. According to ATF records, Cox bought the firearms the same day he sold them to the informant and ATF agent. During the purchase of these firearms, the ATF agent placed an order for a specific pistol which Cox indicated he would attempt to locate for the agent.
Based upon this information, ATF obtained a search warrant for Cox’s home. During the search, police found approximately 40 firearms and ammunition. During an interview after the search warrant, Cox admitted that he had purchased and sold over 150 firearms from March 2009 through August 2012. He contends that he did not get a license because he did not want the Government in his business.
The Government also reviewed Cox’s bank records, federal firearm invoices, and other ATF records and vendor invoices and determined that Cox purchased approximately $49,000.00 in firearms, ammunition and other firearm accessories from January 2009 through July 2012. In addition, Cox sold firearms to various individuals and businesses, sometimes holding the firearms for less than a day before selling. This, the Government, asserted indicated that Cox was purchasing these firearms not for his own collection but for sale to others and thus Cox should have obtained a license and reported the firearm sales as income on his tax returns. Cox never had nor obtained a federal firearms license to deal in firearms during this time period.
Mr. Nettles stated the maximum penalty for willfully dealing in firearms without a license is imprisonment for 5 years and/or a fine of $250,000 followed by three (3) years of supervised release.
The case was investigated by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Lexington County Sheriff's Department. Assistant United States Attorney William K. Witherspoon of the Columbia is prosecuting the case.
This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state and local Project CeaseFire initiative, which aggressively prosecutes firearm cases.