Billings man sentenced to prison for illegal firearm possession

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BILLINGS – A Billings man was sentenced today to 30 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release for selling a firearm while on state probation for previous felony convictions, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.

Wayne Jennings Cooper, 36, pleaded guilty on Jan. 26 to prohibited person in possession of a firearm.

U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided.

In court documents filed in the case, the government alleged that on Dec. 19, 2019, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents learned from a confidential informant that Cooper wanted to sell firearms and drugs. An investigation determined that Cooper had previous felony convictions that prohibited him from possessing firearms and that he was on state probation. During a controlled purchase set up by the agents, Cooper sold an individual a .380 caliber, semi-automatic pistol along with a loaded magazine. Cooper also provided the individual with what was purported to be five grams of methamphetamine but turned out to be a cutting agent.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie R. Patten prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

This case is part of Project Guardian, a Department of Justice initiative launched in the fall of 2019 to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Through Project Guardian, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Montana is working to enhance coordination of its federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement partners in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes. In addition, Project Guardian supports information sharing and taking action when individuals are denied a firearm purchase by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for mental health reasons or because they are a prohibited person.

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