PEORIA, Ill. – A Peoria, Illinois, man, Jeron C. McNeal, 29, of the 200 block of Northeast Rock Island Avenue, was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison and three years of supervised release on October 20, 2021, for his involvement in the burglary of a federally licensed firearms dealer and for giving false statements to federal law enforcement officers. U.S. District Court Judge Joe Billy McDade also ordered McNeal to pay $1,000 in restitution. McNeal will remain on bond and report to the Bureau of Prisons on February 1, 2022.
At the sentencing hearing, the government presented evidence that on June 1, 2020, McNeal was the driver of an SUV whose occupants were participants in looting incidents around the city of Peoria. At approximately 2:00 a.m., McNeal, along with a caravan of approximately 30 cars, stopped in front of Pinnacle Gun & Ammo, a federal firearm licensee located at 701 Main Street. Two minors exited McNeal’s SUV and entered a smashed front window of Pinnacle along with approximately seven other unidentified individuals. McNeal’s sister, Chayla R. McNeal, stood at the SUV and recorded the incident with her phone. Each of the two minors with McNeal stole firearms from the store and ran back to McNeal’s SUV, which was waiting outside. When police gave chase, McNeal fled with the male minor and several guns. The female minor was unable to retreat to McNeal’s SUV in time and was apprehended by police. When she was captured, the minor female was in possession of three stolen guns. In total, twenty-nine firearms were stolen during the looting of Pinnacle.
The government presented additional evidence that on June 1, 2020, federal agents located and interviewed McNeal. He admitted to driving the black Cadillac SUV, which he owned, that was parked in front of Pinnacle at the time of the burglary. He also admitted to driving around the city from business to business that night and that he was present when looting occurred. However, McNeal provided false statements to agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives in that he falsely claimed that (1) he only stopped in front of Pinnacle because he got stuck in traffic; (2) he didn’t know anyone got out of his SUV during the burglary; and (3) he made false statements about who was in the SUV when he went to Pinnacle.
At McNeal’s sentencing hearing, Judge McDade commented that McNeal did not have an extensive criminal record and may not have grasped the enormity of what he was doing, having failed to appreciate that he would go to prison if he was caught. Noting the serious nature of the crime, Judge McDade stated that putting stolen firearms in the hands of people who cannot lawfully possess them is contributing to violence in the streets. To date, five of the twenty-nine guns have been recovered.
McNeal was arrested on September 18, 2020, and pleaded guilty before Judge McDade on June 2, 2021.
The offense of stealing from a licensed firearms dealer carries a statutory penalty of up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and three years of supervised release following imprisonment. For the offense of false statements, the statutory penalty is up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and three years of supervised release following imprisonment.
Chayla R. McNeal has also pleaded guilty to burglary of a federally licensed firearms dealer and false statements to a federal law enforcement officer. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 5, 2021, in federal court in Peoria.
The Peoria Police Department and U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald L. Hanna represented the government in the prosecution.