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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Citrus County Convicted Felon Pleads Guilty To Possession Of 140 Firearms And Explosives

Ocala, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Michael Paul Watkins (41, Citrus Springs) today pleaded guilty to possessing firearms and ammunition as a previously convicted felon. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.  A sentencing hearing has not yet been set.

According to court documents, Watkins was previously convicted in state court for felony offenses, including the handling and fondling of a child under the age of 16 and two escapes. As a convicted felon, he is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition under federal law.

In October 2014, law enforcement officers received information that Watkins had been using a third party to illegally acquire firearms and ammunition. On October 21, 2014, agents executed search warrants at his home, business, and nearby property, recovering 140 firearms, including multiple AK-47 style rifles, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Agents also located several fully assembled pipe bombs and the components to manufacture additional ones. 

This case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert E. Bodnar, Jr.

This is another case prosecuted as a part of the Department of Justice’s “Project Safe Neighborhoods” Program - a nationwide, gun-violence reduction strategy.  United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III, along with Regina Lombardo, Special Agent in Charge, ATF, is coordinating the Project Safe Neighborhoods effort here in the Middle District of Florida in cooperation with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials. It is also a part of ATF’s Frontline strategy to combat violent crime in our communities.

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Updated February 26, 2015