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Press Release

Jury Convicts Final Defendant In Benton Harbor Gun-And-Drug Investigation

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan

Last of 17 Defendants Convicted in Broad Federal Investigation Focused on Machine Gun Conversion Devices

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that a jury convicted Earl Austin IV, 22, of Benton Harbor, of two counts of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, five counts of distribution of methamphetamine, three counts of possession and transfer of a machinegun, four counts of felon in possession of a firearm, and one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

          “The national gun violence epidemic has harmed countless lives, especially kids and people of color,” said U.S. Attorney Totten. “Families in Benton Harbor deserve the right to carry out their lives without the shattering fear of shots fired and the horror it so often brings. We’ll never prosecute our way out of this crisis, which demands an all-hands response, but my office will continue to hold accountable the few who drive it.”

          “Machine gun conversions continue to pose a threat to community safety, and criminals who seek to use violence for gain will face the appropriate consequences,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “I would like to thank our local, state, and federal partners who worked closely to disrupt this criminal enterprise that threatened Michigan residents. The FBI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners in removing dangerous criminals and weapons from our communities to achieve the goal of a safer Michigan.”

          On December 15, 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan announced charges against 11 defendants, including Austin. The charges covered a range of federal crimes, including the sale of “switches,” small devices that turn semi-automatic pistols into fully automatic machine guns. The U.S. Attorney’s Office later charged six additional defendants as part of the same investigation.  All have now been convicted.

          The court has sentenced thirteen of them:



Jayvon Anthony

84 months

Demarcus Greely

38 months

Nicholas Hallo

46 months

Demitrius Seuell

33 months

Omarion Branch

38 months

Eric Williams

24 months

Torez Burnett

70 months

Quincy Bowman

60 months

Timothy Thomas

24 months

Mark Curtis

180 months

Jordan Allen

96 months

Calvin Hill

46 months

Joe Griffin

70 months

          The Court has scheduled sentencing for Armando Villanueva on March 7, 2024; Rhonda Acklin on April 25, 2024; and Evorion Anderson on May 30, 2024.  The Court has not yet announced a sentencing date for Austin.

          This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Patrick Castle and Jacob Metoxen. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety, Berrien County Sherriff’s Department, Homeland Security Investigations, Michigan State Police, Benton Charter Township Police Department, Pokagon Band Tribal Police Department, Grand Rapids Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Michigan Department of Corrections, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

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Updated February 16, 2024

Violent Crime