MINNEAPOLIS – A criminal complaint charging federal firearms violations has been filed against three individuals for their alleged roles an illegal straw purchasing scheme.
Sarah Jean Elwood, 33, Jeffrey Paul Jackson, 30, and Geryiell Lamont Walker, 21, are charged with one count each aiding and abetting false statements in connection with the purchase of firearms. Following a detention hearing on June 3, 2021, before Magistrate Judge Becky R. Thorson, all three defendants were ordered to remain in custody.
According to the complaint, in May 2021, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) learned that at least three firearms that Elwood had recently purchased had been recovered by police during crime investigations shortly after Elwood bought them. After further investigation, law enforcement subsequently discovered that Elwood had purchased at least 56 firearms from various Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) in the State of Minnesota between August 1, 2020, and May 28, 2021. Approximately 47 of the 56 firearms were purchased in the month of May 2021 alone.
According to the complaint, ATF agents reviewed Forms 4473 that Elwood completed and signed in connection with 22 transactions for firearm purchases. On each form, Elwood certified that she was the actual purchaser of the firearms. Based on the investigation, this was a false certification because Elwood was purchasing the firearms for, and at the direction of, another person, primarily Walker. For example, a Glock model 19, 9mm pistol that Elwood purchased on May 12, 2021, was recovered 15 days later, in possession of a suspect whom investigators believe was involved in a shooting incident that occurred on May 11, 2021.
According to the complaint, on May 30, 2021, agents observed a Chevy Impala arrive at an FFL in Circle Pines, Minnesota. Three of the vehicle’s occupants were identified as Elwood, Jackson, and Walker. Walker and another individual entered the FFL first and returned to the vehicle about 15 minutes later. Elwood then exited the vehicle and entered the store. Approximately 15 minutes later, Elwood exited the store with three newly purchased firearms, a 100-round magazine, and three boxes of high-caliber ammunition, for which she paid over $1,750. She was immediately detained by law enforcement. The other occupants in the vehicle, including Jackson and Walker, were also detained. Elwood later described to law enforcement her role in the scheme was to purchase the firearms while Jackson arranged the deals through Walker. After purchasing the firearms, Elwood and Jackson would sell the guns to Walker and others for about a $100 profit per firearm.
Straw purchasing typically involves a buyer who lawfully purchases firearms from an FFL and then provides them to another person who is legally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, therefore allowing the prohibited person to avoid the background check system.
“The Twin Cities is experiencing an unprecedented spike in gun violence. Federal law enforcement continues to be aggressive in our efforts to stem this deadly tide through investigations and prosecutions of federal gun cases, including straw purchasing schemes,” said Acting U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk.
“ATF is dedicated to investigating violent gun crimes and straw purchasing schemes such as this,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Terry Henderson. “Trafficking firearms in order to put guns in the hands of criminals can have irreparable consequences for our communities and we simply cannot let these acts go unaddressed.”
This case was made possible by investigative leads generated from the ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). NIBIN is the only national network that allows for the capture and comparison of ballistic evidence to aid in solving and preventing violent crimes involving firearms. NIBIN is a proven investigative and intelligence tool that can link firearms from multiple crime scenes, allowing law enforcement to quickly disrupt shooting cycles. For more information on NIBIN, visit https://www.atf.gov/firearms/national-integrated-ballistic-information-network-nibin.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the ATF and the Blaine Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Bejar is prosecuting the case.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
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