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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Montana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 27, 2022

Helena pawn shop employee sentenced to three years in prison for firearm crime

GREAT FALLS  — An employee of a Helena pawn shop was sentenced today to three years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for illegally possessing a firearm and lying during a firearm purchase at the business, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Isaiah Maurice Morsette, 39, of Boulder, pleaded guilty in November 2021 to prohibited person in possession of a firearm and to false statement during a firearms transaction.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided.

In court documents filed in the case, the government alleged that in 2021, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began investigating Modern Pawn & Consignment  after learning that Morsette was involved in the purchase of 88 pounds of gunpowder stolen from Montana Outdoor Sports in February 2021. The investigation found numerous violations of federal firearms laws. Morsette’s wife and co-defendant, Catherine Suzanne Morsette, was the federal firearms licensee for the business, while Morsette was the firearms and ammunition expert. Catherine Morsette, who was convicted in the case and sentenced to four years of probation, deferred to her husband on firearms-related matters.

On July 14, 2021, the ATF arrested several suspects, including Morsette, and searched the business. The ATF recovered 110 firearms, some of which were determined to be stolen, and an assortment of ammunition.

Morsette has felony convictions and at the time he possessed firearms, he knew he had been convicted of felony sexual intercourse without consent in December 2011 in Montana.

In March 2021, an undercover ATF special agent went to Modern Pawn, where Morsette told the special agent that he would have two Smith & Wesson 9mm pistols available for sale in four days. Morsette handed the special agent both pistols and discussed other firearms for sale or coming up for sale.

In April 2021, two undercover ATF special agents went to Modern Pawn where special agent #2 eventually bought a Savage 6.5 Creedmoor rifle from Morsette for special agent #1. Morsette handed the rifle to special agent #1. When special agent #1 asked about not having a Montana address yet, Morsette told the special agent to purchase the firearm from him anyway.  With Morsette present, special agent #1 called special agent #2 and asked him to come to the store. While waiting for the second special agent to arrive, Morsette handed special agent #1 a box of ammunition. Special agent #2 arrived at the store and with Morsette filled out an ATF form for the rifle’s purchase. When special agent #2 asked about a question on the form regarding the actual purchaser of the firearm, Morsette responded, “yeah, it’s your gun brother, as far as I’m concerned.” Morsette knowing executed the ATF form stating that special agent #2 was the actual purchaser of the Savage rifle, when in fact he knew that special agent #1 was the actual purchaser.

The ATF investigated the case.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative to reduce violent crime. Through PSN, federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement partners in Montana focus on violent crime driven by methamphetamine trafficking, armed robbers, firearms offenses and violent offenders with outstanding warrants.

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Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Clair Johnson Howard Public Affairs Officer 406-247-4623
Press Release Number: 
22-164
Updated June 27, 2022