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Press Release

KC Fire Captain Charged with Illegally Selling Firearms to Felons

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri
Firearms Linked to Murder, Other Crimes


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A captain in the Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department was charged in federal court today after selling dozens of firearms through straw buyers to convicted felons, some of whom used the firearms to commit other crimes. One of the firearms was used to commit a murder that is being prosecuted in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mo.

“Those who supply dangerous firearms to violent criminals are as much a threat to the safety of our community as the criminals themselves,” Garrison said. “We will aggressively prosecute not only those who illegally possess firearms, but also the suppliers whose criminal conduct enables them to arm themselves with these weapons.”

“At the center of ATF’s mission of reducing firearms-related violence is investigating and bringing to justice those supplying firearms to the violent, criminal elements of our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge George Lauder of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “Stopping this flow of firearms will continue to be our focus as we work to make our neighborhoods safer places to live.”

James Samuels, 52, of Kansas City, Mo., was charged in a criminal complaint filed under seal in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. That complaint, which was unsealed today following Samuels’s arrest and initial court appearance, charges him with one count of selling a firearm and ammunition to a prohibited person and one count of transferring a firearm for use in a violent crime. 

Samuels was arrested on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, following an undercover operation in which he sold a .38-caliber revolver to a confidential informant whom he knew to be a felon through an undercover federal agent posing as a straw buyer. Samuels remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

According to an affidavit filed in support of today’s federal criminal complaint, Samuels purchased 77 firearms, including 57 Jimenez pistols. Of the 77 firearms Samuels has purchased, 47 of them were transferred to third parties, including 43 Jimenez pistols. Six of those pistols have been involved in other crimes. Samuels does not have a federal license to legally sell firearms.

The affidavit cites eight specific transactions in which Samuels purchased firearms then transferred ownership to a straw buyer, identified in court documents as “Co-Conspirator #1,” who later reported the firearms had been stolen or lost when in fact they were possessed by persons who are prohibited from ownership by federal law. 

For example, on April 7, 2016, Samuels purchased two Jimenez .380-caliber pistols (along with multiple other firearms) and transferred ownership of the pistols to the co-conspirator. According to the affidavit, one of the pistols was recovered during a homicide investigation on July 5, 2016. It was determined the recovered firearm was used to murder Alvino D. Crawford. As a result of that investigation, Devon Davis, 18, of Kansas City, Mo., was indicted by a Jackson County grand jury for first degree murder and armed criminal action.

On March 27, 2017, the co-conspirator reported that the second Jimenez .380-caliber pistol had been lost on a city bus. According to the affidavit, the firearm was recovered on March 31, 2017, in a vehicle with four adults and a juvenile, a total of three firearms, crack cocaine and $775.

Samuels purchased a Jimenez 9mm pistol on Nov. 22, 2013, and transferred ownership to the co-conspirator on July 7, 2014. The co-conspirator reported the firearm was stolen on July 23, 2014. The firearm was recovered in Chicago, Ill. The firearm was seized, along with crack cocaine and marijuana, when law enforcement officers in Chicago executed a search warrant during a criminal investigation.

On Nov. 13, 2013, Samuels purchased a Jimenez .380-caliber pistol then transferred ownership to the co-conspirator, who later reported it stolen. The firearm was recovered in the possession of Noel Zavala, 23, of Kansas City, Mo., who was convicted in a separate case of being a felon in possession of a firearm (for the very same Jimenez pistol).

In addition to those eight purchases, the affidavit reports that on Dec. 23, 2013, Samuels purchased three Jimenez pistols, one of which was transferred to another individual identified as “Party #1.” The firearm was recovered from Party #1 during service of an ex-parte order, wherein the petitioner stated that Party #1 threatened over the phone to kill her.

The affidavit also cites several controlled purchases by confidential informants, whom Samuels knew to be felons who could not legally possess firearms or ammunition, who told him they planned to use the firearms to commit homicides.

According to the affidavit, a confidential informant purchased a Winchester 12-gauge shotgun and a box of shotgun shells from Samuels on June 29, 2018, for $350. The confidential informant allegedly told Samuels he/she was going to use the shotgun to shoot people. Samuels also sold a Jimenez Arms 9mm handgun and ammunition for $290 to a confidential informant whom he knew to be a felon on July 19, 2018. An undercover ATF agent served as the straw buyer for the transaction.

On Sept. 5, 2018, Samuels allegedly sold an American Tactical Imports Omni-Hybrid AR-15 rifle, an American Tactical Imports Omni-Hybrid AR-15 pistol and ammunition to a confidential informant whom he knew was a convicted felon. The confidential informant told Samuels he was going to use the firearms to shoot four people later that day. The confidential informant, who claimed he was getting revenge after being attacked, also told Samuels he was going to burn down a residence and asked for his expertise as a firefighter. Samuels allegedly offered several suggestions about how to commit arson without being detected.

The charges contained in this complaint are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad K. Kavanaugh. It was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.

Project Safe Neighborhoods
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with federal, state, and local law enforcement to specifically identify criminals responsible for significant violent crime in the Western District of Missouri. A centerpiece of this effort is Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program that brings together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone.

Updated October 5, 2018

Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods