West Virginia Straw Purchaser Sentenced for Role in Beckley-to-Philadelphia Firearms Trafficking Conspiracy
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia
BECKLEY, W.Va. – Brandon Lawson, 33 of Oak Hill, was sentenced today to 18 months of incarceration, including nine months in prison and nine months on home detention with electronic monitoring, to be followed by three years of supervised release for transferring a firearm to an out-of-state resident. Lawson admitted to a role in a conspiracy to traffic over 140 firearms from the Beckley area to Philadelphia.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Lawson admitted to transferring a Ruger, Model LC9S, 9mm pistol to trafficking conspiracy ringleader Bisheem Jones, also known as “Bosh,” in Beckley on March 11, 2021. Lawson further admitted to aiding and abetting his spouse, Megan Bickford, 34, of Oak Hill, in the illegal purchase of firearms for the trafficking conspiracy during 2020 and 2021.
The trafficking conspirators recruited Bickford and other straw purchasers from within the Southern District of West Virginia. Jones or an intermediary told the straw purchasers which firearms to buy and provided the money for the purchases. Of the over 140 firearms trafficked by Jones and his co-conspirators between early 2020 and mid-2021, approximately 45 were recovered at crime scenes primarily in Philadelphia. These firearms have been connected to two homicides, crimes of domestic violence, and other violent offenses. Three firearms straw purchased by Lawson were recovered by Philadelphia police at crime scenes.
Lawson and Bickford are among 18 defendants who pleaded guilty in connection with the firearms trafficking. After five days of trial, a federal jury found Jones, 37, of Philadelphia, guilty on December 16, 2022, of conspiracy to travel interstate with the intent to deal in firearms without a license, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and interstate travel with the intent to deal in firearms without a license. Jones is scheduled to be sentenced on April 14, 2023, and faces a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison.
United States Attorney Will Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Philadelphia Police Department.
United States District Judge Frank W. Volk imposed the sentence. Assistant United States Attorneys Negar M. Kordestani and Steve Loew prosecuted the case.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 5:22-cr-79.
Updated May 19, 2023
Project Safe Neighborhoods