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Press Release

Chester County Man Pleads Guilty in Federal Court to Illegally Possessing Guns and Ammunition

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. —Jonathan Neely, 34, of Fort Lawn, South Carolina has pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.

Evidence obtained in the investigation revealed that on March 3, the Chester County Sheriff’s Office, United States Probation Office, and the United States Marshals Service obtained an arrest warrant for Neely for violation of his federal supervised release and a state search warrant for his residence, located in Ft Lawn. Neely was on federal supervised release based upon convictions for knowingly possession of an unregistered firearm, knowingly possession of an unregistered firearm silencer, knowingly possession of an unregistered firearm silencer without a serial number and possession of a firearm by an unlawful drug user.  These convictions arose out of a federal conviction in Asheville, North Carolina in 2018. 

A search of the residence resulted in the seizure of multiple rounds of ammunition, a Ruger pistol and a plastic baggie containing methamphetamine. Law enforcement then went to another residence in Fort Lawn where investigators noted a white colored trailer on the property. This was the same trailer that was reported to have been used by Neely to hide his firearms and that he had recently hidden on this property.

The police spoke to the property owner who stated that the trailer belonged to Neely, that he had dropped it off on the property, and that only Neely had access to it.  The property owner stated that they did not have keys to the trailer or know what was inside of it.  The police obtained a search warrant for the trailer. 

During the search of the trailer, investigators recovered a large amount of ammunition and the following firearms:

• Rossi .22 caliber revolver;

• Makarov 9mm pistol;

• Palmetto State Armory AR-15 style rifle;

• New England Arms 20-gauge shotgun;

• Ruger pistol;

• Stevens Arms .20-gauge shotgun;

On March 14, the Marshals Service located Neely and placed him under arrest.  Following his arrest, Neely acknowledged that he owned the firearms in the trailer and that he was aware that his felony convictions had prohibited him from possessing them. 

Neely faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison. He also faces a fine of up to $250,000, restitution, and three years of supervision to follow the term of imprisonment.  United States District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis accepted the guilty plea and will sentence Neely after receiving and reviewing a sentencing report prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.

This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime.  Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This case was investigated by U.S. Probation Office, U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Chester County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney William K. Witherspoon is prosecuting the case.



Veronica Hill, Public Affairs Specialist,, (803) 929-3000

Updated December 6, 2023

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses