From The Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM — Three defendants charged in a scheme to “straw purchase” firearms appeared in federal court this week. Two additional defendants have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosives and Firearms Special Agent in Charge Mickey French made the announcement.
Yesterday, Michael Tiree Coleman, 24, of Tuscaloosa, pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler to giving a false statement during the purchase of a firearm. Coleman is scheduled for sentencing on March 22, 2022.
In October, Dayquan A. Haley, 23, of Boston, Massachusetts, and Darius Marquise Collins, 25, of Boston, Massachusetts, was arrested in Boston on charges related to conspiracy to falsify information on firearm acquisition records in separate but related indictments filed in the Northern District of Alabama. Haley and Collins were arraigned on Wednesday afternoon before the United States Magistrate Judge Staci G. Cornelius. An indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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 Jewelry and Pawn, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Between November 2019 and March 2021, Walker, Brown, and Coleman – the straw purchasers – purchased approximately 42 handguns from Wade’s Jewelry and Pawn. Coleman also purchased three firearms from Blue Bore Armory in Demopolis, Alabama. During that time, Haley and Collins 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 they were buying the firearms for Haley and Collins. Haley and Collins provided the straw purchasers with funds to buy firearms and paid them to purchase 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 from Wade’s Jewelry and Pawn. 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 possessed multiple firearms that Brown had purchased from Wade’s Jewelry and Pawn in July 2020.
In August, Jeremy Bernard Brown, 30, of Tuscaloosa, pleaded guilty before Chief Judge L. Scott Coogler to giving a false statement during the purchase of a firearm. Brown is scheduled for sentencing on May 24, 2022.
In July, Demarcus Montez Walker, 25, of Tuscaloosa, pleaded guilty before Chief Judge L. Scott Coogler to giving a false statement during the purchase of a firearm. Walker is scheduled for sentencing on May 24, 2022.
Coleman, Brown, and Walker face up to 10 years in prison for giving a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.
Haley and Collins face up to five years in prison for conspiracy to falsify information on firearm acquisition records.
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.