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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Five indicted by a federal grand jury for crimes including illegal firearms possession

Recent change in law increases maximum penalty for gun crimes

SAVANNAH, GA: Five defendants are among those facing federal charges including illegal possession of firearms after separate indictments by a grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia, while recent actions in U.S. District Court include guilty pleas and criminal sentences related to illegal gun possession. 

The indicted cases are being investigated as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods in collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI, to reduce violent crime with measures that include targeting convicted felons who illegally carry guns.

“As we continue the fight against violent crime in our neighborhoods, removing guns from the hands of convicted felons helps keep our citizens safe,” said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “We appreciate the outstanding work of our law enforcement partners in protecting our communities.”  

In the past four years, more than 775 defendants have been federally charged in the Southern District of Georgia for illegal firearms offenses – most often for possessing a firearm after conviction for a previous felony. In addition, recent federal legislation increased the maximum penalty for illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon to 15 years, up from 10, for those found in possession after the June 25, 2022 signing of the law.

Defendants named in federal indictments from the October 2022 term of the U.S. District Court grand jury include:

  • Robert Triche, 40, of Savannah, charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine; Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon; Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime; Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, Fentanyl; and Possession with Intent to Distribute Fentanyl;
  • Maurice Brown, 21, of Savannah, charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon;
  • Ricky Maurice Johnson, 35, of Swainsboro, Ga., charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon;
  • Steve Shontell Heath, 46, of Hephzibah, Ga., charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon; and,
  • William Beau Devore, 21, of Martinez, Ga., charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.

Criminal indictments contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Additional defendants recently have been adjudicated on federal charges that include illegal firearms possession:

  • James Hoffman, 37, of Savannah, was sentenced to 92 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Savannah Police officers arrested Hoffman after a foot chase in August 2020 while investigating a report of a man firing a pistol. The officers found a loaded pistol on the ground after tackling Hoffman, who has multiple prior felony convictions for violent crimes.
  • Robert Alexander DuBose, 40, of Augusta, was sentenced to 84 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and fined $1,500 after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies investigating a vehicle break-in in November 2020 arrested DuBose after finding a pistol in his pants.
  • Elijawan Leysath Rhodes, 29, of Augusta, was sentenced to 33 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and fined $1,500 after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Richmond County Sheriff’s Office investigators responding to gunfire at a Wrightsboro Road motel Dec. 31, 2021, arrested Rhodes after a brief chase when they found a pistol in Rhodes’ vehicle.
  • Michael Jordan Sharp, 31, of Augusta, was sentenced to 36 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and fined $1,200 after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Sharp was on parole from a felony conviction on state charges for sale of methamphetamine when Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies and officers from the Georgia Department of Community Supervision found a pistol while searching his residence. 
  • Kevin Shawn McGahee, 48, of Stapleton, Ga, was sentenced to 56 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and fined $1,500 after pleading guilty to Possession of Firearms by a Convicted Felon. McGahee’s April 2021 arrest followed a search of his residence where agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and deputies from the Warren County and McDuffie County sheriff’s offices found methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, and nearly two dozen firearms. Among those firearms was a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol equipped with a so-called “Glock switch,” an aftermarket accessory that converts firearms into automatic weapons. McGahee also faces state charges in the case.
  • Neqwaun O’Neal Roberson, 23, of Augusta, was sentenced to 46 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and fined $1,000 after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Roberson in September 2021 on outstanding warrants for state charges, including aggravated assault and armed robbery, and found a loaded pistol in his pocket. Roberson is a member of Loyalty Over Everything (LOE) criminal street gang in Augusta.
  • Jonathan R. White, 25, of Savannah, was sentenced to 46 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Savannah Police officers investigating a vehicle crash arrested White after seeing him remove a pistol from the vehicle and learning that White had a prior felony conviction.
  • Ziquane Sandford, 24, of Hephzibah, was sentenced to five years of probation and fined $1,500 after pleading guilty to Engaging in the Business of Dealing in Firearms Without a License. Sandford admitted he sold firearms on four occasions without the required license. 
  • Charles Dean Jones, 26, of Grovetown, Ga., awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. A Georgia State Patrol trooper charged Jones in November 2021 after an attempted traffic stop, pursuit and crash of the motorcycle Jones was riding in Columbia County. Jones had a loaded pistol in a backpack he was wearing.  
  • Cody Truitt Devore, 23, of Sylvania, Ga., awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Columbia County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Devore after finding drugs and two guns in his vehicle during a traffic stop in January 2022. At the time, Devore was on federal supervised release for a 2019 federal conviction for firearms possession.
  • James Deon Green, 51, of Savannah, awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Savannah Police officers arrested Green in December 2020 after a traffic stop and foot pursuit when they found a pistol in Green’s waistband.
  • Diallow Akpan Johnson, a/k/a “Kevin Williams,” 50, of Savannah, awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Savannah Police officers were called to Johnson’s apartment in January 2021 to investigate a report of domestic violence and found a pistol and drugs in the residence.
  • Quentin Jashawn Putney, 46, of Wrightsville, Ga., awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Savannah Police officers arrested Putney, who was a back-seat passenger in a vehicle stopped for traffic violations, in July 2020 when they found him in possession of a pistol. Putney has prior criminal convictions that include domestic violence.
  • Ryan Nickolus Smiley, a/k/a “Nick Smiley,” 40, of Springfield, Ga., awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition by a Convicted Felon. A member of the Aryan Brotherhood white supremacist street gang, Smiley was on supervised release from a prior federal firearms conviction in March 2021 when the U.S. Marshal’s Service served an arrest warrant for a violation of supervised release and found ammunition and photos of Smiley in possession of firearms.

Agencies investigating these cases include the ATF, the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Savannah Police Department, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, and the Georgia State Patrol.

The cases are being prosecuted for the United States by the Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Under federal law, it is illegal for an individual to possess a firearm if he or she falls into one of nine prohibited categories including being a felon; illegal alien; or unlawful user of a controlled substance. Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime. It is also illegal to purchase – or even to attempt to purchase – firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others. Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to lawfully purchase a firearm, also is a federal offense. 

For more information from the ATF on the lawful purchasing of firearms, please see: https://www.atf.gov/qa-category/atf-form-4473

121-22

 

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Contact: 
Barry L. Paschal, Public Affairs Officer: 912-652-4422
Press Release Number: 
121-22
Updated November 1, 2022