Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Federal Firearm Charge

Columbia, South Carolina — Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett DeHart announced today that Raekwon Cortez Ford, 24, of Columbia, pleaded guilty in federal court to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Evidence presented to the court showed that, in late November 2019, several automobiles were broken into and various items stolen, including an iPhone. One of the victims of the break-ins was able to track their iPhone to a residence in Columbia and notified the Columbia Police Department.  Officers responded to the residence and found a number of individuals in the yard, including Ford.  Ford, a gang member, was placed under arrest on outstanding warrants and was found to be in possession of the stolen iPhone. 

Officers then obtained a search warrant for Ford’s residence, which they executed on December 4, 2019.  Within the residence, officers located Ford, who had been released on state bond from the earlier arrest, and found a loaded Ruger .45 caliber handgun concealed in an air vent in Ford’s bedroom.  An analysis showed Ford’s DNA on the firearm and that the firearm had been reported stolen from an earlier auto break-in in Columbia in December 2018.  A ballistics analysis through the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) revealed that the firearm had been used in four separate shooting incidents in Richland and Lexington Counties from June through August 2019.

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. More information on NIBIN can be found at: https://www.atf.gov/firearms/national-integrated-ballistic-information-network-nibin.

Ford is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition based upon his prior felony convictions.  Ford has prior state convictions for unlawful carrying of a weapon, possession of a stolen weapon, breach of peace of an aggravated nature, and breach of trust.  

Ford faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.  United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs accepted the guilty plea and will sentence him after receiving and reviewing a sentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office.

The charges against Ford were the result of an investigation by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the Columbia Police Department, as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. 

Assistant United States Attorney Stacey D. Haynes of the Columbia office is prosecuting the case.

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