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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Out of State Resident Pleads Guilty to Firearms Charges

David Robert Sutton, 55, who has connections to Wisconsin and New Jersey, pled guilty today to charges of possessing, receiving, and importing unregistered machine guns, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Sections 5861(d), (j), and (k). 

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Hugo Barrera, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), made the announcement.

Sentencing for Sutton is scheduled for August 18, 2015 before United States District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg in Fort Pierce.  At sentencing, Sutton faces a maximum statutory sentence of ten years in prison on each of the three counts.

According to statements made in court and documents filed in the case, Sutton is a collector of firearms and is familiar with the requirements for registration and tax payment in order to lawfully possess certain types of firearms.  This includes knowledge of automatic firearms, which are classified as machine guns and are therefore subject to the National Firearms Act, codified at Title 26 of the United States Code.  The statute treats parts of firearms the same as fully assembled firearms. In September 2014, Sutton contacted a German friend by email and asked the individual to purchase him three lower receivers (the part of the firearm frame, with the trigger grip and magazine well,  that houses the operating parts such as the bolt assembly) for Colt M16A1 automatic rifles which were advertised for sale in a website link.  When the German asked if the purchase of the receivers was illegal, Sutton dismissed his concerns and the German proceeded to buy and ship the firearms to Sutton in the United States.  Sutton directed the German to mislabel the package as “aluminum castings for use on boat,” falsely identify the United States of America as the country of origin, and address the delivery to the captain of a boat.  The investigation revealed that Sutton was living on the addressee boat that was docked at a marina in Martin County, Florida.  Sutton further advised his German contact “not to remember” to whom he sent the package, or otherwise respond to inquiries if law enforcement officers should ask about the firearms.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer discovered the firearms upon inspection of the package when it arrived in the United States and transferred the package to HSI agents for investigation.  A joint ATF and HSI investigation into the ownership of the addressee boat led agents to identify Sutton as the intended recipient of the package.  When Sutton returned to the marina he contacted the management office to inquire about his package.  An undercover ATF agent, acting as a marina employee, directed Sutton to the package.  After Sutton took possession of the package and returned to his boat, he and a companion were stopped by HSI and ATF Special Agents and members of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office marine unit.  Following consent by Sutton, the agents searched the boat and found the package containing the three lower receivers, that had been opened and reclosed by Sutton.  Sutton admitted to ordering the firearms and acknowledged that they were not registered as required by federal law.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ATF, HSI and the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore Cooperstein.  

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Updated February 4, 2016