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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Citrus County Man Arrested On Federal Firearms, Ammunition, And Explosives Charges

Ocala, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces the arrest yesterday of Michael Paul Watkins (41, Citrus Springs) on a criminal complaint alleging the possession of firearms and ammunition by a previously convicted felon, and the possession and manufacturing of unregistered destructive devices. Each offense carries a maximum penalty of ten years in federal prison.

According to court documents, Watkins was previously convicted, in state court, of felony offenses involving the handling and fondling of a child under the age of 16, and two escapes from custody. As a convicted, felon he is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition under federal law. In early October 2014, law enforcement officers received information that Watkins was using a third party to illegally acquire firearms and ammunition. Federal agents subsequently obtained search warrants for Watkins’s home, business, and a nearby property.

Yesterday, law enforcement agents executed the search warrants and recovered approximately 134 firearms (including AK-47 rifles) from Watkins’s home, along with numerous rounds of ammunition. They also discovered several fully assembled pipe bombs and the components to manufacture more.   

A criminal complaint is an allegation by the United States that a defendant has violated one or more federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Tampa Police Department Bomb Squad. It will be 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 Trevor Velinor, Acting 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 reduce violent crime in communities.

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Updated January 26, 2015