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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of South Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 19, 2017

Operation "Real-Time": Greenville Man Enters Guilty Plea in Federal Court on Gun Charges

Contact Person: Lance Crick (864) 282-2100

Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Beth Drake stated today that Michael Lee Westbrook, age 40, of Greenville, pled guilty this morning in federal court in Anderson to a felon in possession of a firearm indictment.  United States District Judge Timothy M. Cain accepted the plea and will impose sentence after he has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.

Westbrook, a previously convicted felon who is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition, faces a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of life in federal prison. Westbrook was arrested on federal firearms charges on September 7, 2016, and has remained in custody, detained without bond, since his federal arrest.

Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that on September 3, 2016, members of the Greenville County Sheriff's Office responded to a local residence in an attempt to locate Westbrook for a state probation violation. Upon their arrival, deputies located Westbrook located in the back yard and recovered a loaded Ruger .380 caliber pistol from his back pocket.

Westbrook was arrested federally as a part of "Operation Real-Time." The goal of this program is to identify individuals for federal prosecution with significant criminal histories who continue to actively possess firearms in the Upstate community.  In addition to the Greenville County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Real Time's core partners include the Greenville Police Department, the Anderson Police Department; the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services; the South Carolina Highway Patrol; United States Probation; the Department of Homeland Security; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the 13th Circuit Solicitor's Office; and the United States Attorney's Office.  Since August of 2015, the initiative has resulted in the expedited federal prosecution of some 90 defendants and seizure of approximately 110 firearms as well as assorted ammunition from prohibited persons.

Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis and his office are crucial partners in this effort.  "The Greenville County Sheriff's Office is committed to removing illegal weapons from violent offenders and are very glad to be a part of this program and will offer any assistance we can."

U.S. Attorney Beth Drake commended the partnership between the state and federal agencies that led to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the U.S. Attorney's Office adopting the case, "We work best when we work together.  This 'real time' identification of high risk offenders is smart policing, and we welcome the opportunity to work alongside our state chiefs and sheriffs in taking violent repeat offenders out of our communities."

The Greenville County Sheriff's Office along with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigated the case. Assistant United States Attorney Max Cauthen in the Greenville U.S. Attorney's Office is prosecuting the case.

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Topic(s): 
Firearms Offenses
Component(s): 
Updated January 19, 2017