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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 15, 2016

“Real Time”: Felon Who Attempted to Evade Officers Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison for Firearms Possession

Expedited for prosecution by the ATF, Venegas had only been out of jail 47 days prior to chase

Contact Person: Lance Crick (864) 282-2100

COLUMBIA, South Carolina ---- Acting United States Attorney Beth Drake stated today that Amancio Joshua Venegas, age 32, of Gaffney, was sentenced to ten years in federal prison following a guilty plea to federal gun charges.  United States District Judge Timothy M. Cain presided over both the guilty plea hearing, held on April 25, 2016, and yesterday’s sentencing hearing in Anderson.  Venegas was arrested on federal charges shortly after his state arrest and has remained in custody, detained without bond, since his federal arrest.  Venegas received the statutory maximum sentence for his conduct.

 

The facts presented at both the guilty plea hearing as well as the sentencing hearing established that on August 19, 2016, Venegas, a previously convicted felon who is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition, drove an underage female to a restaurant parking lot in Cowpens in an ill-fated attempt to facilitate a methamphetamine drug deal.  In the days leading up to the attempted drug deal, Venegas helped the female acquire a loaded .22 caliber pistol which she had in her purse as she approached her drug customer.  Venegas was aware when she got out of his vehicle that she was in possession of the firearm.

 

The deal quickly went south as the prospective customer turned out to be an undercover police officer.  As police quickly moved in to make arrests, Venegas fled the parking lot in his Jeep Cherokee, hitting a pedestrian in the process.  In his attempt to flee, Venegas ultimately abandoned his vehicle after running it into a median guidewire on Interstate 85 in Cherokee County and then ran into the woods before being taken into custody.

 

Arrested on state charges on August 19, 2015, Venegas’ case was immediately adopted for federal investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).  Venegas was arrested on federal warrants on August 24, 2016.  This investigation was one of the first cases adopted as part of the US Attorney’s Office’s “Real Time” prosecutions in the upstate.

 

“Real Time” is an ongoing local, state, and federal initiative that expedites the identification, arrest, detention, and federal prosecution of repeat offenders arrested with firearms.  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.  Venegas was on state probation at the time of his firearms possession and flight, having been released from the South Carolina Department of Corrections 47 days earlier.

 

The case was investigated by the Cowpens Police Department, the Gaffney Police Department, the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the 7th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).  Assistant United States Attorney Lance Crick of the Greenville office prosecuted the case.

 

Acting U.S. Attorney Beth Drake commended the continuing partnership between the state and federal agencies in keeping our communities safe: “We work best when we work together.  We welcome the opportunity to work alongside our state chiefs and sheriffs in taking individuals who illegally possess firearms out of our communities.

 

7th Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette and his office serve as an active partner in the Real Time efforts. “This multi-agency partnership endeavors to keep our communities safe and reduce firearms violence through ‘real time’ identification of dangerous individuals who seek to disrupt our streets and communities with firearms-driven violence.”

 

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Updated December 15, 2016