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Press Release

Two Plead Guilty in 23-Gun Trafficking Scheme

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

PITTSBURGH - Two former residents of Duquesne, Pennsylvania have pleaded guilty to charges of violating federal firearms laws United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

Khalil Armstrong, 26, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements in acquisition of a firearm, making a false statement in the acquisition of a firearm, and making a false statement to a licensed firearm dealer. Melvin Bowles, 24, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements in acquisition of a firearm and possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon. Both defendants entered guilty pleas in front of Chief United States District Court Judge Mark R. Hornak in separate hearings. Judge Hornak scheduled sentencing for August 12, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. for Armstrong and August 12, 2019 at 1:30 p.m. for Bowles. Both defendants were detained after their initial appearances in federal court and will remain detained pending sentencing.

According to information presented to the court, on February 8, 2018, Bowles, a convicted felon, asked Armstrong to purchase a Glock firearm for him. Bowles is prohibited from buying or possessing firearms after Pennsylvania state court felony convictions for illegally possessing firearms and eluding police. Thereafter, Armstrong traveled to a federally licensed firearm dealer in the Pittsburgh area and bought a Glock firearm and then transferred it to Bowles. On February 15, 2018, the Pittsburgh division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives executed a search warrant at Bowles’ residence and recovered the Glock firearm Armstrong had purchased for him, as well as ammunition. As part of the plea, Armstrong admitted to trafficking firearms by straw purchasing 23 firearms and transferring them to Bowles and other individuals.

The defendants face a maximum total sentence of not more than 10 years in prison, a fine of not more than $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Timothy M. Lanni is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives conducted the investigation leading to the two guilty pleas in this case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

Updated April 9, 2019

Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods