HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Harrisburg Police Bureau announced a joint initiative (Operation Scarecrow - Harrisburg) that targets individuals who illegally purchase and possess firearms in Harrisburg and surrounding areas. Operation Scarecrow focuses on individuals who are prohibited from possessing firearms due to a prior felony conviction who use third parties (“straw parties”) to purchase firearms on their behalf. Under federal and state law, such transactions are illegal and both the prohibited person and the straw party are subject to criminal prosecution for engaging in this type of behavior.
Operation Scarecrow - Harrisburg began in April 2021 and has thus far resulted in ten individuals being charged in federal court regarding 139 straw purchases of firearms, and 26 firearms being recovered.
U.S. v. Holton, et. al.
U.S. v. Tasker, et. al.
U.S. v. Lugo-Brooks
U.S. v. Bailey
U.S. v. Adorno
The investigations are continuing, and numerous other individuals are expected to be charged in the near future.
“Taking illegal guns off the streets is a high priority of the Department of Justice,” stated Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler. “Illegal guns fuel the epidemic of violence we see too often in Harrisburg, and around the nation. We will work with all our state and local partners to reduce gun violence and investigate any and all suspicious straw party transactions that result in felons or other prohibited persons illegally possessing firearms.”
“ATF has a zero-tolerance policy for straw purchasers who acquire firearms from a federal firearms licensee for someone who is either ineligible to purchase a firearm or wishes to conceal his/her identity,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “ATF remains committed to removing those offenders who put these guns in the hands of criminals. We will continue to work with our partners at all levels to make our communities safer.”
“The City of Harrisburg is working diligently to ensure that the safety of its residents is a priority,” said Mayor Papenfuse. “The Police Bureau’s collaboration with ATF on Operation Scarecrow is an important step in making the City streets safer.”
The indictments are the result of an investigation by ATF, and the Harrisburg Bureau of Police.
These cases are 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.
Indictments are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
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