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Press Release

Speakeasy Operator Convicted for Possession of a Firearm by a Felon

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Edward Burgess, 45, of Philadelphia, PA, was convicted at trial of a single count of possession of a firearm by a felon, arising from an investigation of an illegal speakeasy by the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE).

In June 2019, BLCE officers conducted undercover surveillance of a local lounge selling alcohol and tobacco products without a license. They witnessed defendant Edward Burgess acting as a manager of the lounge and entering areas designated as "employees only." Philadelphia Police officers then conducted a raid of the lounge premises. When the officers were escorting the defendant away from the crowd, he pulled a loaded firearm from his waistband and threw it behind him, where it struck one of the undercover BLCE officers in the leg. The officer alerted a Philadelphia Police officer, who was able to retrieve the firearm. Defendant Burgess was previously convicted of a felony offense and is prohibited from possessing a firearm.

"Today's conviction at trial is a step forward to a safer Philadelphia," said U.S. Attorney Romero. "This case is an example of our close working relationship with our local and state partners to use federal criminal charges to make the community safer.”

“The outcome of this prosecution sends a positive message to the community on ATF’s commitment to keeping the public safe from firearms violence,” said Eric DeGree, Special Agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division.  “Keeping our communities safe from violent felons like this will always be our top priority.  This outcome highlights the value of the collaborative effort with our local, state, and federal partners to reduce 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 the Philadelphia Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anthony Carissimi and Bea Witzleben.

Updated February 2, 2023

Project Safe Neighborhoods