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Press Release

Jefferson County man indicted on charges he conspired against the U.S. and sold machine gun conversion devices

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA – Timothy John Watson, of Ranson, West Virginia, is facing charges of conspiracy against the U.S. Government and selling machine gun conversion devices to extremists, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell announced.

“The suspect in this case appears to have supplied hundreds of people with these conversion devices, some to people who want to do Americans harm. Federal law is very specific on these types of devices, and the safety of the public from extremists is one of our highest priorities.  Detecting this business front for what it actually was is due to the excellent law enforcement work that I have the honor of seeing every day.  The indictment only reflects the charges, and we look forward to meeting our burden of proof,” said Powell.

Watson, 30, was indicted today on one count of “Conspiracy to Commit Offenses against the United States,” one count of “Unlawfully Engaging in the Business of Manufacturing Machineguns,” one count of “Illegal Possession and Transfer of Machineguns,” and one count of “Possession of Unregistered Firearm Silencer.” 

Watson is suspected of selling machinegun conversion devices online without having a license to do so. The devices, called “drop in auto sears,” convert semi-automatic AR-15 rifles to fully automatic machine guns.  The indictment alleges that Watson was selling the devices on a website that appeared to be selling wall hangers. This portable wall hanger business is suspected of marketing to Boogaloo adherents, a loosely organized far-right, anti-government, and extremist political movement in the U.S. 

“The FBI remains focused on the threat posed by domestic violent extremists,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. “The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force works closely with our federal, state and local partners across the country to combat these serious threats. We cannot and will not allow these types of activities to inflict violence and harm to the American people.”

Watson faces up to five years of incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000 for the conspiracy count and faces up to 10 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the remaining counts. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jarod J. Douglas and Lara Omps-Botteicher are prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service continues its investigation.

This case falls with the purview of the Attorney General’s Task Force to Combat Violent Anti-Government Extremism. Launched in June 2020, the Task Force is dedicated to supporting the investigation and prosecution of any person or group who commits violence in the name of an anti-government ideology.

An indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated November 17, 2020

Firearms Offenses
National Security