Three indicted for “lie and buy” firearms trafficking schemes
First Western Washington cases prosecuted under ‘Project Guardian’ initiative to combat gun crime
Seattle – Three Seattle area residents have been indicted by a grand jury following a federal investigation of illegal firearms purchases, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. The arrests highlight the Department of Justice focus on combatting gun crime under “Project Guardian.” One core emphasis of Project Guardian is to increase prosecution of so-called “lie and buy” or “lie and try” cases where the purchaser is obtaining a firearm for a prohibited person.
“Project Guardian furthers our efforts to stop gun violence in Western Washington, by enhancing coordination between federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. “This ATF-led operation arrested three people on indictments charging them with lying on federal forms to purchase guns that were destined for felons, individuals associated with violent street gangs, and others who simply should not have a firearm.”
“Gun crime remains a pervasive problem in too many communities across America. The Department of Justice is redoubling its commitment to tackling this issue through the launch of Project Guardian,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Building on the success of past programs like Triggerlock, Project Guardian will strengthen our efforts to reduce gun violence by allowing the federal government and our state and local partners to better target offenders who use guns in crimes and those who try to buy guns illegally.”
On November 7, 2019, a grand jury returned a ten-count indictment charging SHANNON McCALL, 40, of Seattle and her son, LEONTAI BERRY, 20, of Federal Way, Washington, with a conspiracy to purchase firearms in violation of federal law. Between August 2017 and January 2019, McCALL repeatedly lied on firearms purchasing forms claiming that five different firearms were for her personal use. In fact, McCALL purchased the firearms on behalf of BERRY, who was under the legal age to purchase a firearm.
According to records filed in the case, BERRY converted some of the guns to machine guns, and some of the illegally purchased firearms are linked to gang-related shootings and possession by felons. In addition to conspiracy, BERRY and McCALL are charged with making false statements in connection with purchasing firearms. BERRY is also charged with possessing a machine gun, and McCALL is charged with making a false statement to federal officers.
The grand jury returned a second indictment against CARL DEANDRE KEMP, 26, of Seattle charging him with making a false statement in acquisition of a firearm. The indictment alleges that KEMP falsely claimed that he was the actual buyer of a firearm that he purchased.
The charges contained in the indictments are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The charges in the indictments are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is convicted in a court of law.
The cases are being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Manca who serves as the Project Guardian coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Additional Information on Project Guardian:
Project Guardian’s implementation is based on five principles:
1) Coordinated Prosecution. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement will coordinate with state, local, and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors to consider potential federal prosecution for new cases involving a defendant who: a) was arrested in possession of a firearm; b) is believed to have used a firearm in committing a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime prosecutable in federal court; or c) is suspected of actively committing violent crime(s) in the community on behalf of a criminal organization.
2) Enforcing the Background Check System. United States Attorneys, in consultation with the Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in their district, will create new, or review existing, guidelines for intake and prosecution of federal cases involving false statements (including lie-and-try, lie-and-buy, and straw purchasers) made during the acquisition or attempted acquisition of firearms from Federal Firearms Licensees.
Particular emphasis is placed on individuals convicted of violent felonies or misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, individuals subject to protective orders, and individuals who are fugitives where the underlying offense is a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; individuals suspected of involvement in criminal organizations or of providing firearms to criminal organizations; and individuals involved in repeat denials.
3) Improved Information Sharing. On a regular basis, and as often as practicable given current technical limitations, ATF will provide to state law enforcement fusion centers a report listing individuals for whom the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has issued denials, including the basis for the denial, so that state and local law enforcement can take appropriate steps under their laws.
4) Coordinated Response to Mental Health Denials. Each United States Attorney will ensure that whenever there is federal case information regarding individuals who are prohibited from possessing a firearm under the mental health prohibition, such information continues to be entered timely and accurately into the United States Attorneys’ Offices’ case-management system for prompt submission to NICS. ATF should engage in additional outreach to state and local law enforcement on how to use this denial information to assure better public safety.
Additionally, United States Attorneys will consult with relevant district stakeholders to assess feasibility of adopting disruption of early engagement programs to address mental-health-prohibited individuals who attempt to acquire a firearm. United States Attorneys should consider, when appropriate, recommending court-ordered mental health treatment for any sentences issued to individuals prohibited based on mental health.
5) Crime Gun Intelligence Coordination. Federal, state, local, and tribal prosecutors and law enforcement will work together to ensure effective use of the ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Centers (CGICs), and all related resources, to maximize the use of modern intelligence tools and technology. These tools can greatly enhance the speed and effectiveness in identifying trigger-pullers and finding their guns, but the success depends in large part on state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners sharing ballistic evidence and firearm recovery data with the ATF.