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Press Release

Madison Man Sentenced for Selling Firearms Without a License

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

MADISON, WIS. – Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Thomas Caldwell, 68, Madison, Wisconsin, was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson to 37 months in federal prison for engaging in the business of selling firearms without a federal firearms dealer’s license.  Caldwell pled guilty to this offense on September 6, 2018. 

A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent warned Caldwell on December 15, 2015 to stop selling firearms without a license after a handgun that Caldwell sold was found during a Milwaukee drug investigation.  Federally licensed firearm dealers are required to collect identifying information from would-be gun buyers and to check, through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIC), whether the purchaser is eligible to buy a firearm. 

ATF investigated further after learning in September 2017 that Caldwell continued to sell firearms.  The investigation showed that Caldwell engaged in the business of selling firearms despite the warning.  In total, thirteen firearms sold by Caldwell were recovered at crime scenes, most tragically when police found a Glock pistol sold by Caldwell in a downtown Chicago stairwell after the gun was used to kill Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer earlier this year.

Former Chicago Police First Deputy Superintendent John Escalante, a colleague and childhood friend of Commander Bauer, spoke on behalf of the Bauer family at today’s sentencing.  Escalante asked that Caldwell be held accountable for his role in Bauer’s death.  “That accountability has to be on those who commit the violence and those who put the guns in the hands of people who commit the violence,” Escalante said.

In imposing the sentence, Judge Peterson noted that Caldwell disregarded the December 15, 2015 ATF warning to stop selling firearms without a federal firearms dealer license.  Judge Peterson observed that Caldwell was insistent on violating the law despite this and subsequent warnings that firearms Caldwell sold were recovered at crime scenes.  Judge Peterson stated that Caldwell’s 37 month sentence “should be an object lesson” that the laws relating to the business of selling firearms must be followed.

United States Attorney Blader stated, “This Administration has made it clear that it will protect citizen’s constitutional rights while vigorously prosecuting those who violate federal gun laws.  Thomas Caldwell deliberately circumvented federal firearms laws for the sake of profit and expediency, contributing to the tragic consequence of a Chicago police officer losing his life.  Such conduct will not be tolerated and the prosecution of such offenses are a priority.”    

The charge against Caldwell was the result of an investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with assistance from the Madison Police Department.  The prosecution of the case has been handled by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy O’Shea and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Chadwick Elgersma.  

This case has been brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the U.S. Justice Department’s program to reduce violent crime.  The PSN approach emphasizes coordination between state and federal prosecutors and all levels of law enforcement to address gun crime, especially felons illegally possessing firearms and ammunition and violent and drug crimes that involve the use of firearms. 

Updated November 1, 2018

Project Safe Neighborhoods