BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Today, Chief U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler sentenced one of six defendants charged in a scheme to “straw purchase” firearms, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosives, and Firearms Special Agent in Charge Mickey French.
“This kind of criminal activity escalates violent crime in our communities,” U.S. Attorney Escalona said. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to remove illegal firearms from our neighborhoods before they can be used in a homicide or other violent crime.”
“A person violates federal law the moment that they purchase and transfer a firearm to an individual who cannot legally possess them,” SAC French said. “The ATF is committed to working with our local, state, and federal partners to investigate and prosecute the “straw purchasers” in conjunction with the individuals who receive these firearms and use them to commit violent criminal acts.”
Freddie Ward, 23, of Uniontown, was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Ward pleaded guilty to giving a false statement during the purchase of a firearm in October 2021.
On April 28th, Dayquan A. Haley, 23, of Boston, Massachusetts, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Haley pleaded guilty to conspiracy to falsify information on firearm acquisition records in December 2021.
On March 30th, Michael Tiree Coleman, 24, of Tuscaloosa, was sentenced to 5 years’ probation. Coleman pleaded guilty to giving a false statement during the purchase of a firearm in October 2021.
Darius Marquise Collins, 25, of Boston Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to giving a false statement during the purchase of a firearm in March 2022.
Jeremy Bernard Brown, 30, of Tuscaloosa, pleaded to giving a false statement during the purchase of a firearm in August 2021.
Demarcus Montez Walker, 25, of Tuscaloosa, pleaded guilty to giving a false statement during the purchase of a firearm in July 2021.
According to court documents, ATF Birmingham Field Division received a referral from ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Center about multiple firearms purchases from Three Factors Unlimited, Inc., doing business as Wade’s Pawn Shop, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Between November 2019 and March 2021, Walker, Brown, and Coleman – the straw purchasers – purchased approximately 42 handguns from Wade’s Pawn Shop. Coleman also purchased three firearms from Blue Bore Armory in Demopolis, Alabama. During that time, Haley, Collins, and Ward partnered with Walker, Brown, and Coleman, who were permitted to buy guns from licensed dealers in Alabama. As Massachusetts residents, Haley and Collins could not buy handguns from licensed dealers in Alabama and take them back to Massachusetts. The straw purchasers falsified documents by specifically stating that they were the actual buyers when in fact they were buying the firearms for Haley, Collins, and Ward. Haley and Collins provided the straw purchasers with funds to buy firearms and also paid them for purchasing the firearms.
On March 11, 2020, a traffic stop was conducted in South Carolina in which Haley was in possession of several firearms, 14 of which were purchased by Walker at Wade’s Pawn Shop. Several of the other firearms that Walker purchased were recovered by law enforcement in Boston, Massachusetts. One of the firearms purchased, by Walker in Alabama on November 18, 2019, was used in a homicide in Boston, Massachusetts on April 15, 2020.
On July 20, 2020, Uniontown police officers encountered Collins and Haley, at the E&Z Event Center in Uniontown, Alabama. Collins and Haley were in possession of multiple firearms which had been purchased by Brown at Wade’s Jewelry and Pawn in July 2020.
These cases are a part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
The Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ campaign “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” is a part of PSN aimed at reducing firearm “straw purchases”, the illegal purchase of a firearm by one person for another, and to educate would-be straw purchasers of the penalties of knowingly participating in an illegal firearm purchase. More information about the campaign can be found at: www.dontlie.org.
The ATF investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristy Peoples and Darius Greene are prosecuting the cases.