Two Individuals Charged With Firearm Violation, Conspiracy In Connection With Straw Purchase Of Gun
Firearm Was Used In The Death Of University Of Utah Student
SALT LAKE CITY – A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday afternoon charges two individuals with violations of federal law involving the alleged straw purchase of a Beretta PX4 Storm .40-caliber handgun. The handgun was purchased from a federal firearms dealer in Salt Lake City on Sept. 8, 2018.
The firearm remained in the possession of one of the defendants until Oct. 17, 2018, when he loaned it to an acquaintance, identified in the indictment as M.S.R. Five days later, Melvin Rowland used the Beretta to kill University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey.
The indictment alleges Sarah Emily Lady, age 24, of Mapleton, Utah, and Nathan Daniel Vogel, age 21, of Millcreek, Utah, knowingly made false and fictitious statements intended to deceive a firearms dealer while purchasing the firearm. The indictment alleges Lady falsely answered “yes” to a question asking whether she was the actual buyer of the firearm knowing that Vogel was the intended actual purchaser of the firearm.
A straw purchase happens when someone lies on an ATF form to purchase a firearm for an individual who is prohibited from owning a gun or an individual who does not want to wait for the completion of a background check. Lying on federal forms to purchase a firearm for someone is illegal.
“Lauren McCluskey’s death was tragic and heartbreaking. We join so many others in offering our condolences to her family and friends,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said today. “While we cannot change what happened that October night in Salt Lake City, we can say that without the conduct alleged in this indictment, this particular handgun would not have been used to take Lauren’s life.”
“The laws of the United States offer safety and predictability when we abide by them. Straw purchases are prohibited under federal law for a reason,” Huber said. “When a firearm is unlawfully acquired or transferred, the firearm ends up in the wrong hands and violence brings tragedy to our community,” Huber said.
This indictment does not allege that the defendants were responsible for Miss McCluskey’s death.
“Lying on a federal form to purchase a firearm has very serious consequences,” said ATF Denver Special Agent in Charge Debbie Livingston. “The ATF form 4473 clearly states that making a false statement or misrepresenting one’s self is punishable as a felony under federal law. The consequences of lying goes beyond imprisonment for the individual who fills out the form, it puts the community and public at risk. Our condolences go out to Lauren’s family and friends who have suffered because of conduct related to the straw purchase alleged in this indictment.”
“The University of Utah, Department of Public Safety would like to thank the United States Attorney’s Office and ATF for their assistance with this case. We value the relationship we have with our federal partners,” Dale G. Brophy, Chief of Police at the University of Utah, said.
The charges allege Lady and Vogel conspired to defraud the United States by impeding and obstructing the functions of the ATF in enforcing federal firearms laws and preventing illegal firearms trafficking through the straw purchase of a firearm.
The indictment alleges Lady and Vogel made false statements on the ATF form to circumvent Vogel’s background check and waiting period, because Vogel wanted the firearm immediately. Vogel was “generally discharged” from the Army and was fearful that he could not purchase a firearm without a delay, the indictment alleges.
Between Aug. 30, 2018, and Sept. 8, 2018, Lady and Vogel made plans to meet at a firearms store in Salt Lake City so Vogel could identify the firearm he wished to own and Lady could purchase it for him. The indictment alleges Lady and Vogel text messaged 13 times to arrange the meeting. When they got to the store on Sept. 8, 2018, Lady and Vogel looked at several firearms and Vogel asked questions of the sales person. Vogel pointed out the Beretta handgun, asked the sales person questions about the firearm, and handled it. He gave the Beretta back and moved to the ammunition area of the business to obtain ammunition for the firearm.
Shortly after, Lady began the purchase of the Beretta, answering yes to the question asking if she is the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm. The firearms licensee conducted a background check on Lady that took about 10 minutes and allowed her to purchase the firearm and ammunition. Immediately after the purchase, Lady handed the firearm to Vogel, the indictment alleges.
Lady was arrested Tuesday in Utah and had an initial appearance Wednesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brooke C. Wells. She entered a plea of not guilty to the charges in the indictment. A three-day jury trial was set for May 20, 2019. She was released on conditions of supervised release – including no contact with the co-defendant in the case and a prohibition on possession of firearms or weapons.
An arrest warrant is pending for Vogel.
The maximum potential penalty for a false statement during the acquisition of a firearm is 10 years in federal prison. The conspiracy could has a potential five-year sentence.
Indictments are not findings of guilt. Individuals charged in indictments are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.