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Press Release

Philadelphia Woman Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Firearms Trafficking

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
The defendant began selling weapons after her brother was arrested for the same crime

PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Elena Ramirez, 34, of Philadelphia, PA, was sentenced to three years in prison and three years of supervised release by United States District Court Judge Gene E.K. Pratter, for trafficking weapons and ammunition as part of her family’s firearms trafficking ‘business’ in Philadelphia.

In November 2020, the defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deal in firearms without a license, dealing in firearms without a license, and possession of a machinegun and a non-registered machinegun, arising from a series of purchases made during the course of an undercover law enforcement operation. In January 2019, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) purchased a total of 19 machinegun conversion devices, two privately made firearms (“PMFs”), two rifles, and more than one hundred rounds of ammunition over four separate transactions from Ramirez. The defendant provided the inventory for these transactions and received the net-profits from the sales, which were brokered through a co-defendant, Matthew “Montana” Stephens, who received a percentage of each sale as a fee.

In 2019, the defendant’s brother, Mario Ramirez, was indicted for selling firearms, ammunition and machinegun conversion devices, also with the help of Stephens, and is awaiting sentencing. Thus, despite having personal knowledge of the legal consequences of engaging in firearms trafficking, Elena Ramirez stepped into her brother’s role and continued to supply weapons for sale.

“Elena Ramirez threatened the safety of our communities by illegally selling firearms on the street,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “Even after witnessing her brother’s arrest and conviction for the exact same crimes, this defendant chose to follow in his footsteps and will now spend years in prison. Thanks to the steady, determined efforts of investigators at the ATF, the Ramirez family business is closed.”

“Federal law requires gun dealers to obtain a license and to conduct background checks on their customers,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “These laws are in place to prevent guns from falling into the hands of dangerous people. When a person circumvents the license-and-background-check framework by engaging in the business of unlicensed dealing, that person increases the threat to public safety. ATF, along with our local, state and federal partners, are committed to countering that public safety threat as a part of its broader strategy to combat violent crime.”

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.   The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Priya T. De Souza.


615 Chestnut Street, Suite 1250
Philadelphia, PA 19106

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Updated March 23, 2021

Firearms Offenses