Two Grand Haven Men Plead Guilty To Theft Of Firearms From Gun Stores In Ottawa And Muskegon Counties
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson and Ottawa County Prosecutor Ronald J. Frantz joined U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles in announcing today that Joseph Jerry Sweet, age 33, and Ronald Patrick Cook, age 27, both from the Grand Haven area, pled guilty to two counts of stealing firearms from Federal Firearms Licensees. The defendants face up to ten years in prison on each of the two counts of conviction.
Sometime during the night on June 27, 2013, the two defendants broke into the Renegade River store in Spring Lake, Michigan, stealing eight firearms. On July 13, 2013, the two broke into the Grasmeyer Brothers Gun & Supply Shop in Dalton Township, Michigan, at approximately 12:30 a.m., stealing 24 firearms, including twenty handguns and four rifles. Cook admitted as part of his plea and in an interview with law enforcement that the two intended to traffick the firearms and that they exchanged some of the weapons for heroin and cash on the street. Federal law prohibits the theft of firearms from Federal Firearms Licensees. Both stores are federally-licensed firearms dealers.
Cook was previously convicted five times for felonies, including a breaking and entering conviction in 2007 and an assault with a dangerous weapon conviction in 2011. Sweet is a three-time convicted felon, having been convicted of breaking and entering in 2004, larceny in 2005 and felony drunk driving in 2008. Federal charges of possessing firearms as convicted felons will be dismissed at sentencing, given the guilty pleas to the theft charges.
This case resulted from a coordinated investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Department, the Grand Haven Public Safety Department, the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department, and the Michigan State Police-West Michigan Enforcement Team (WEMET).
U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles said, “Stealing firearms is illegal. Intending to sell stolen firearms is both illegal and dangerous. These defendants put people’s lives at risk by increasing the number illegal guns in the hands of criminals.”
Sonja A. Everitt, Resident Agent in Charge, Grand Rapids ATF, stated, “This investigation is an example of ATF’s commitment and determination in making our communities safe. ATF’s Frontline strategy is our business model that addresses gun trafficking crime. These accomplishments could not have been achieved without the collaboration and hard work of ATF, Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office, Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, Spring Lake Police Department, Grand Haven Department of Public Safety, and the United States Attorney’s Office.”
Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson commented: “I appreciate working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to help rid Muskegon County of the individuals who try to put stolen guns on our streets which only promotes violence. I look forward to continuing our strong partnership in making Muskegon County a safe place to work and live.”
Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz echoed the sentiment: “Once again our long-standing partnership between local and federal law enforcement has been successful in reaching across jurisdictional lines and bringing perpetrators to justice.”
The defendants will be sentenced by the Honorable Robert J. Jonker. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled. It is expected to take place in approximately ninety days.