11 charged with illegal gun sales
By George Jones
Published February 4, 2006
Operation Flea Collar, a two-year undercover investigation into illegal gun sales at northern Alabama flea markets, has today resulted in the indictment of 11 people and the seizure of 556 firearms.
Alice H. Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and James M. Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), announced Wednesday that 11 people have been charged in connection with an undercover investigation into the illegal sale of firearms known as Operation Flea Collar.
Special agents of the ATF along with law enforcement in DeKalb, Etowah, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Madison, Marshall, Morgan, and Jackson counties in Alabama, law enforcement in Lawrence, Bradley and Marion counties in Tennessee and law enforcement in Polk County, Ga., investigated the illegal sale of numerous firearms over a two-year period.
According to Martin, the undercover operation focused on the Trade Day Flea Market in Collinsville in DeKalb County, the Taco Bet Flea Market in Dutton in Jackson County, and the Alabama Gun Collector’s Gun Show in Birmingham.
Operation Flea Collar showed that the indicted individuals, either from booths or from vehicles on the grounds of the flea markets, sold firearms on a routine and regular basis without a federal firearms license. Undercover law enforcement agents were able to purchase 166 firearms that included pistols, revolvers, shotguns, and a North American Arms .22 caliber mini revolver in a wallet holster.
“Anyone engaged in dealing in firearms must have an FFL – Federal Firearms License – do the required checks on purchasers, and keep sales records. This process protects communities and keeps guns out of the hands of criminals. The individuals indicted disregarded the safety of citizens when they repeatedly sold firearms to people who told them they were convicted felons and that traveled from other states to buy a gun,” said Martin.
The indictments charge various federal crimes including: engaging in the business if dealing in firearms without a license, knowingly selling a firearm to a person who they believed to be a convicted felon, knowingly selling a firearm to a person who they believed to reside outside Alabama, knowingly possessing a firearm not registered to the seller in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record and knowingly traveling interstate to acquire a firearm.
According to Martin, at the conclusion of the undercover operation, search warrants were executed on all the indicted individuals and ATF recovered 556 firearms ranging from small caliber handguns to a “Streetsweeper.”
According to U.S. Attorney Martin, tracing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives revealed that firearms previously purchased by the defendants were recovered from crime scenes in the following cities: Mobile and Birmingham; McAllen, Texas; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Buffalo, N.Y.; Detroit; Atlanta; New York; Los Angeles; North Carolina and throughout the Southeast in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. Specifically, one firearm was involved in the attempted murder of a Chicago police officer and one was involved in a murder-for-hire scheme in New York City.
Among the 11 indictments issued Wednesday were filed against:
n Glen Edward Stewart, 55, of Albertville is charged with one count of dealing firearms without a license from March 20, 2004 to Nov. 6, 2004 in DeKalb, Jefferson and Marshall counties. He is additionally charged with one count of selling a firearm to an out-of-state resident. Stewart faces five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each count if convicted.
n Teddy Neal Hill, 69, of Boaz, is charged with two counts of dealing in firearms without a license from Feb. 28, 2004 to Nov. 16, 2004 in DeKalb County. He is additionally charged with one count of selling a firearm to an out-of-state resident. Hill, if convicted, faces a prison sentence of five years and a fine of $250,000 for each count charging him with selling firearms without a license and selling a firearm to an out-of-state resident.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Blackwell is heading the prosecution of Operation Flea Collar. She is also the Project Safe Neighborhoods coordinator for the Northern District of Alabama. Federal Firearms law training is available to local law enforcement and is well known across the Northern District of Alabama as Alabama ICE (Isolate the Criminal Element).
“This remarkable flea market investigation magnifies the prosecutorial and investigative partnerships Alabama ICE has formed to combat the illegal sale of firearms,” Martin said. *
Members of the public are encouraged to report information about illegal firearm sells to their local law enforcement or to ATF.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment or information contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges, and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
* Not as remarkable as Martin's failure to nail Richard Scrushy.
edited for speling!
What if these firearms sales were private sales from a personal collection? Do you mean you can't sell any gun without an FFL?
I swear, I really believe they have been running this "sting" for about 10 years now.
ETA: In the southeast.
No. Selling from your personal collection is another matter.
If a person engages in the regular practice of buying and selling guns, then he'll need to obtain an FFL. Compare it to someone selling their used car. If they do it enough, they need to get a dealer's license. In Illinois for example, the requirement to obtain a car dealer's license kicks in when a person sells as little as five vehicles within a year's time.