Federal charges follow raids at gun shops
Source: KYTV3 News
URL Source: http://www.ky3.com/newsdetailed.asp? id=5592
Published: Dec 16, 2003
Author: By: Laurie Patton
SPRINGFIELD -- Federal law officers were completing a long investigation of firearms violations when they led raids at three businesses on Tuesday morning. By the end of the day, U.S. attorneys had formally charged four people.
Larry Scott, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said about 100 federal and local officers executed search warrants, which were the result of a three-year investigation.
The raids were at Gunsmoke Gun and Pawn, 4305 W. Chestnut Expressway, a Westley Richards rifle dealership, 4319 W. Chestnut, and Gunsmoke Guns and Gold Exchange, 1828 E. Division St. Though the names of two of the businesses are similar, the companies have separate owners.
Gunsmoke Gun and Gold Exchange is licensed to Cathleen Schlichting. She and her husband, Steven Schlichting, are charged with federal firearms violations and selling guns without a license.
According to court records, a BATFE agent accused John Robert Bob Francis of being the true manager of the Westley Richards Agency and also participates in the management of Gunsmoke Gun and Pawn. In doing so, Bob Francis possesses all the firearms in the inventory of both businesses and frequently handles and controls the firearms.
Francis can't legally sell firearms, or work in a business that sells firearms, because he pleaded guilty in 1986 to conspiracy to deal firearms without a license. In the court records, the BATFE agent says, between September 2002 and this month, a confidential informant met or talked with Bob Francis about 30 times (and recorded at least 26 of the meetings) about gun sales and the operations of the businesses on Chestnut. Bob Francis is charged with possessing and selling a rifle.
City business records show Gunsmoke Gun and Pawn and the Westley Richards dealership are licensed to Bob Francis' wife, Nancy Francis. Nancy Francis also has two federal firearms licenses for the two businesses. In his affidavit, the BATFE agent said, Nancy Francis was warned in writing and in person that Bob Francis could not be in control, that is, in possession, of any firearms. Bob Francis was only allowed to work in the non-firearms part of the pawn business and the firearms were to be locked in a manner inaccessible to Bob Francis.
Nancy Francis and her son, Barton Westerman, the official manager of Gunsmoke Gun and Pawn, are charged with aiding and abetting Bob Francis.
While federal agents were cataloging and confiscating guns at the businesses on Chestnut, they also confiscated seven computers. Defense Attorney Kyle Domann of Springfield showed up mid-morning to find out what was going on inside the store.
"This morning, I was hired by the family to come over
and investigate what was taking place over here," said Domann.
Federal agents briefed Domann on what was happening.
"All indications are what they're doing is assembling all the firearms that are here at the location except the ones that are on consignment and taking those in to evidence," said Domann.
"This is a long term investigation with ATF and it consists of violations of the federal firearms laws," said Scott. "We're present on site serving a search warrant, actually two search warrants."
Even though the two Gunsmoke businesses have different owners,
ATF agents believe the businesses are connected.
The IRS was involved in the raids as well as the Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center in Springfield.
Federal agents also raided gun shops in Marshfield and Mountain
Grove on Tuesday. Both go by the name of Gators Pawn. Those raids followed
a separate investigation than the one that led to the raids in Springfield.
After the raids, U.S. attorneys charged William Earl Gates with operating the shop in Marshfield shop with an expired license. The license expired on Sept. 1, 2003.
Gates also runs the shop in Mountain Grove but it has a
current license. A BATFE agent says Gates ordered employees at the shop in Marshfield
to fax data about gun sales and pawn transactions to the shop in Mountain Grove,
where they were recorded as having been done at that shop. The agent recorded
at least one conversation between a customer and Gates at the shop in Marshfield.
An undercover agent also purchased a shotgun from Gates in Marshfield.
This site is still underconstruction, so please bear with us.
Return to the main entrance of ATF
Return to ATF Abuse in the Newspapers
If you have any data to share or report,
please email it here
Your name will be kept strictly confidential (unless you wish it otherwise)