DOJ Seal Department of Justice  
United States Attorney John M. Bales
Eastern District of Texas

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE            CONTACT:  DAVILYN WALSTON
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2009            PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER
HTTP://WWW.USDOJ.GOV/USAO/txe             DIRECT: (409) 839-2538 CELL: (409) 553-9881

 

US ATTORNEY ANNOUNCES IMPACT OF OPERATION TIME MACHINE IN PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS

            PORT ARTHUR, TX – U.S. Attorney John M. Bales announced today the significant impact Operation Time Machine has made on gun and drug related violent crime in Port Arthur, Texas since its implementation in October 2009.

            On Oct. 8, 2009, Bales announced the formation of Operation Time Machine and the federal indictments of eight individuals for gun related felonies committed in Port Arthur.  Since that time, one defendant has pleaded guilty and another has been convicted by a jury.  Nine additional individuals have been indicted.  To date, all but two of the federally charged defendants have been detained without bond pending trial.  Several other individuals have been charged by the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office for criminal violations of state firearms law.

            JUAN JOSE VENTURA, 26, of Port Arthur, pleaded guilty on Nov. 9, 2009, to possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence before U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield.  Ventura had been convicted in 2007 for family assault in Jefferson County and is therefore prohibited by federal law from possessing or owning firearms or ammunition.  Ventura faces up to 10 years in federal prison at sentencing. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.   This case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the Port Arthur Police Department (PAPD).

            CHAD ALLEN PIAZZA, 36, of Port Arthur, was found guilty by a jury on Nov. 19, 2009, of federal firearms violations. According to information presented in court, Piazza sold a stolen .22 caliber rifle and a 20 gauge shotgun to a Port Neches resident on Sep. 2, 2008. After a newspaper report, the purchaser became suspicious that the guns had been stolen in a burglary of a habitation that had occurred in Groves during the Hurricane Gustav evacuation.  The purchaser contacted the Groves Police Department, and further investigation revealed that Piazza was a convicted felon having been convicted of possession of a controlled substance and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. As a convicted felon, Piazza is prohibited from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition. Piazza faces up to 10 years in federal prison.  A sentencing date has not been set.  This case is being investigated by the ATF, the Groves Police Department, and the Nederland Police Department.

            KENNETH RADONNA SWALLOW, 19, of Port Arthur, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Nov. 4, 2009, for firearms violations committed on Oct. 29, 2009.  He is being held in federal custody pending trial following a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Earl Hines on Nov. 16, 2009.  According to information presented in court, Swallow was arrested by Port Arthur Police Officers following the execution of an evidentiary search warrant at his residence on Oct. 29, 2009.  At the residence, officers located a handgun and a board with exposed nails which was reported to have been used by Swallow in an assault earlier that day. Evidence was also presented that Swallow was in the possession of crack cocaine.  Swallow is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, as he was previously convicted of felony evading detention in a motor vehicle and delivery of a controlled substance.  As a convicted felon, he is prohibited by federal law from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition. Swallow is currently scheduled for a jury trial to begin on Jan. 5, 2010, before U.S. District Judge Ron Clark.  If convicted, Swallow faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

            OMAR DAMOND DAW, 32, of Port Arthur, was detained pending trial following a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Earl Hines on Nov. 19, 2009. Daw had been indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 7, 2009.  According to information presented in court, Daw was arrested by Port Arthur Police Officers after it was discovered that he possessed an SKS-type assault rifle under the back seat of his car. The serial numbers on the rifle were obliterated.  An investigation revealed that Daw had been previously convicted for possession of a controlled substance and delivery of a controlled substance, and is prohibited from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition. Daw is currently scheduled for a jury trial to begin on Jan. 5, 2010 before U.S. District Judge Ron Clark. If convicted, Daw faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

            EMRICK KNIGHT, 30, and RONZELL GONZALEZ, 21, both of Port Arthur, were indicted by a federal grand jury on Dec. 2, 2009, for federal firearms violations, including theft of firearms from a Port Arthur Pawn Shop that occurred when the shop was closed during the Hurricane Ike evacuation last September.  If convicted, they each face up to 10 years in federal prison.

            JORGE VARELA, 20, of Port Arthur, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Dec. 2, 2009, for possession of a firearm by an illegal alien that occurred on Nov. 2, 2009. Varela also faces an immigration charge for illegally entering the United States.  Varela had been sought by the Port Arthur Police Department in connection with a drive-by shooting that is alleged to have occurred in Port Arthur on Sep. 12, 2009.  Charges relating to the drive-by shooting are pending in state court.  A federal trial date has not yet been scheduled for Varela.  If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison and deportation.

            Other defendants currently charged with federal firearms violations related to Operation Time Machine are RAFAEL DEWAYNE GLOVER, BRANDON JAMAL JACOBS, and ANTHONY JACOB CORMIER, all of Port Arthur.

            Bales praised the enthusiasm and aggressiveness of his Time Machine partners, particularly the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office, the PAPD, ATF and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

            "The DA's Office has made this partnership work by their commitment to Port Arthur, including the assignment of a full-time assistant district attorney to help prosecute these cases," Bales said. "ATF has committed significant resources to Port Arthur, including numerous agents, and ICE has been aggressive with its enforcement of immigration laws and regulations in Port Arthur with respect to suspected gang members."

            On Nov. 4, 2009, ICE agents from Beaumont and Houston teamed with the US Marshals Service, FBI, and the PAPD to conduct a gang surge targeting 20 residences of suspected Sureno 13 and Norte 14 gang members in Port Arthur. The surge resulted in the arrest of 15 individuals, including 3 arrests for state and local warrants and 12 for immigration violations.

            Operation Time Machine is a federal and local partnership designed to reduce gun and drug related violent crime in Port Arthur.  Time Machine partners the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas, the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office, the City of Port Arthur and Mayor Delores "Bobbie" Prince, the Port Arthur Police Department and Chief Mark Blanton, ATF, DEA, FBI, ICE and other agencies.  These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ross and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Baylor Wortham. 

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