Baltimore Firearms Trafficker Sentenced to 42 Months in Federal Prison for Illegally Dealing in Firearms
Baltimore, Maryland – A federal criminal complaint has been filed charging Elias Nick Costianes, Jr., age 43, of Nottingham, Maryland, for the federal charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and for possession of firearms and ammunition by an unlawful user of any controlled substance. The criminal complaint was filed on August 23, 2021, and unsealed today upon Costianes’s arrest. Costianes had an initial appearance scheduled today in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson. Costianes was released under the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services.
The criminal complaint was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner and Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, on January 8, 2021, the FBI received an online tip reporting that Costianes had used a mobile social media application to broadcast videos of his participation in the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Based on the video evidence, in addition to other information developed during the investigation, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an arrest warrant for Costianes pursuant to a criminal complaint alleging various offenses relating to his participation in the Capitol riot. As part of the investigation, search warrants authorizing the FBI to search Costianes’s residence, vehicle, and the cellphone believed to have been used by Costianes during the riot, were executed on February 12, 2021. Costianes was at home on a couch in the living room, was taken into custody, and transported to U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. for his initial appearance on the criminal complaint.
The affidavit alleges that during the execution of the search warrant, law enforcement recovered Costianes’s cellphone, which was located within arms’ reach of Costianes, and four firearms: a 9mm pistol; a M&P 15 semi-automatic rifle; a .223 caliber semi-automatic rifle; and a shotgun. The 9mm pistol and M&P 15 semi-automatic rifle were registered to Costianes, but the other two firearms were not. Officers also found 9mm, .22-caliber, .223 caliber, and shotgun ammunition, and recovered three vials of testosterone enanthate and one vial of testosterone cypionate, both controlled substances. In the cushions of the living room couch where Costianes had been observed during the search warrant execution, officers found a used hypodermic needle. Hypodermic needles are often used to inject testosterone into muscle by illegal users of synthetic testosterone. In Costianes’s vehicle, law enforcement recovered 28 grams of marijuana in a mason jar and a silver digital scale with trace amounts of marijuana on its surface. All of the evidence was transported to the FBI, which subsequently conducted a forensic review of the phone.
Although the search warrant for Costianes’s cellphone authorized the search of the entire phone, based on the recovery of the firearms and controlled substances found at the residence, as well as photographs of firearms and controlled substances found during the forensic review, a separate search warrant was obtained authorizing the seizure of evidence relating to firearms, ammunition, or controlled substances. A search warrant was also obtained for Costianes’s online storage account.
According to the affidavit, Costianes’s phone allegedly contained screen captures of text message conversations between Costianes and other individuals containing slang terms for quantities and types of cocaine and other references to weights of controlled substances, including “Eights,” which refers to an eighth of an ounce, usually of cocaine, and “QP’s,” which refers to quarter pounds, usually in the context of marijuana. As detailed in the affidavit, these weights were referenced in conversations in which dollar amounts were also mentioned, allegedly reflecting discussions concerning controlled substance transactions.
The online storage account allegedly contained approximately 300 messages beginning in January 2019 with contacts involved in Costianes’s purchase or use of marijuana and more than 450 messages beginning in March 2020 with contacts involved in Costianes’s purchase or use of cocaine. Recovered text messages reflect that Costianes allegedly continued using cocaine through February 2021. According to the affidavit, the storage account also contained more than 350 messages with contacts involved in Costianes’s purchase or use of testosterone beginning as early as February 2020 and continuing through February 2021.
As detailed in the affidavit, the electronic evidence, including photographs and text message conversations, revealed that Costianes also conspired to traffic cocaine and testosterone by acquiring controlled substances from his suppliers to distribute to friends and associates. For example, in a text message conversation from October 30 to November 1, 2020, Costianes allegedly agreed to obtain four half-gram bags of cocaine from Costianes’s supplier on behalf of cellphone contact “S.C.” In addition, the data allegedly showed that Costianes was facilitating the distribution of testosterone from his testosterone supplier to a cellphone contact “D.M.” For example, in text messages between May 10 and May 15, 2020, Costianes allegedly arranged to buy three 10-ml bottles of testosterone from his supplier on behalf of D.M.
If convicted, Costianes faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance; and a maximum of 10 years in prison for possession of firearms and ammunition by an unlawful user of a controlled substance. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the FBI for its work in the investigation. Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey J. Izant, who is prosecuting the federal case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.
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