Four Defendants Sentenced in Connection with Federal Gun Crimes
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Four defendants were sentenced to federal prison today on firearm possession and theft charges, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart. Justin Keith Branham, of Alum Creek, pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm; Joshua Wade Sheets, of Danville, pled guilty to possessing and transferring stolen firearms; and Alisha Marie Esque, of Julian, and Jason Allen Davis, of Van, pled guilty to stealing firearms from a federally licensed firearms dealer. For their crimes, Branham was sentenced to 72 months in federal prison, while Sheets, Esque, and Davis were sentenced to 15, 18, and 12 months, respectively. United States Attorney Mike Stuart praised the investigative work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, the West Virginia State Police, the Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration, Office of Inspector General.
On the night of November 4, 2016, Branham stole a vehicle from a Mine Safety and Health Administration facility located in Madison, West Virginia. He and Esque then drove to a local federally-licensed gun dealership, where Esque served as a lookout while Branham stole approximately 13 pistols, assault rifles, and shotguns. Sheets helped Branham sell the majority of the stolen weapons in Kanawha County, West Virginia. Following that sale, Branham advised Sheets and Davis how they could break into the dealer’s place of business and steal more firearms. Branham then assisted Sheets in stealing a second vehicle from the MSHA facility. On the night of November 5 or 6, 2016, Davis stood watch while Sheets – following Braham’s guidance – entered the dealer’s building and stole 14 guns. Davis fled the scene before the burglary was complete, but Branham arrived and assisted Sheets in transporting the guns to a Cross Lanes motel. Sheets, Branham, and Esque were tracked down and arrested at that motel on November 7, 2016, and Davis was arrested in Danville the following day. Branham is prohibited from possessing any firearms under federal law because of a 2013 felony conviction in Kanawha County, West Virginia, for burglary by breaking and entering.
“These gun thieves, who in turn sold the stolen guns, jeopardized the safety of our law abiding citizens and law enforcement. And we’re not going to tolerate that,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “We will prosecute criminals who violate our gun laws to the fullest extent of the law in order to protect the public and our Second Amendment rights,” continued Stuart.
“We will aggressively investigate, identify and bring to justice those who endanger the public through illegal firearms trafficking,” said Stuart Lowrey, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Louisville Division. “These defendants disrupted lawful commerce in firearms and then diverted stolen guns into the illicit market without regard for future violent crimes that might be committed. This case reflects the commitment among law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to reduce violent crime in West Virginia.”
Assistant United States Attorney Matt Davis was in charge of the prosecution. United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr., handed down the sentences.
This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a nationwide commitment to reduce gun crime in the United States by networking with existing local programs targeting gun crime.