U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
District of Connecticut
Connecticut Financial Center
157 Church Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06510
For Immediate Release
December 14, 2009
Contact: Tom Carson, Public Information Officer
(203) 996-1393 (cell)
Project Safe Neighborhoods:
Pawn Shop Employee Admits Illegal Firearms Sales
Nora R. Dannehy, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that PHILIP DeFRANCESCO, 40, of Waterbury, pleaded guilty today before Senior United States District Judge Ellen Bree Burns in New Haven to one count of making false statements during the purchase of a firearm.
According to court documents and statements made in court, DeFRANCESCO was an employee of G and G Pawn Shop, in Bristol, which was a licensed firearms dealer. On January 16, 2009, two ATF special agents, one male and one female, entered G and G Pawn Shop in an undercover capacity. The male undercover agent told DeFRANCESCO that he was looking at handguns and wanted to buy something small for his own protection. The agent and DeFRANCESCO specifically discussed two firearms, a .32 caliber pistol and a .357 revolver. When DeFRANCESCO asked the undercover agent for his firearm permit, the agent replied that he did not have it, pointed to the female undercover agent and said
I had some problems back in college and I can’t…unfortunately…She does.
After the female undercover agent presented her permit, the male undercover agent continued to examine the firearms, asked questions about some of the pistols functions, and discussed prices with DeFRANCESCO. He then told DeFRANCESCO that he would take the .32 caliber pistol and would pay cash. DeFRANCESCO then gave the female undercover agent an ATF Form 4473, a document that federal law requires firearm purchasers to complete. The ATF Form 4473 has a specific question asking if the person filling out the form is the actual buyer of the firearm. The female undercover agent filled out the form indicating she was the actual buyer, and signed it in front of DeFRANCESCO. DeFRANCESCO then handed the .32 caliber pistol to the female undercover agent, who then passed it to the male undercover agent in front of DeFRANCESCO.
In February and March 2009, DeFRANCESCO similarly sold three additional handguns to the male undercover ATF agent through the same female undercover agent acting as the “straw” purchaser. The charge to which DeFRANCESCO pleaded guilty stemmed from a firearm purchase that occurred on March 9, 2009. On that date, the undercover agents returned to the pawn shop. While the female agent spoke on her cell phone, DeFRANCESCO removed a .22 caliber pistol from the gun case and handed it to the male undercover agent who examined the firearm and worked the slide. The male agent then paid $240 in cash for the firearm, and the female undercover agent completed the ATF Form 4473 and signed it in front of DeFRANCESCO.
Judge Burns has scheduled sentencing for March 4, 2009, at which time DeFRANCESCO faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
DeFRANCESCO has been released on a $50,000 bond since his arrest on June 23, 2009.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Bristol Police Department, the Hartford Police Department, the Connecticut State Police Firearms Trafficking Task Force and the Connecticut State Police Special Licensing and Firearms Unit. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan S. Freimann.
The Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative is aimed at reducing gun and gang violence, deterring illegal possession of guns, and improving the safety of residents of Connecticuts cities. Participants in the initiative include community members and organizations as well as federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
- LAMONT MULLER, a.k.a. “Dell” and “Cuz,” 36, of Alger Place, New London
- MARCUS COLVIN, 30, of Williams Street, New London
- DONALD GATLIN, a.k.a. “Jitt,” 28, of Federal Street, New London
- LYNDON GORDON, a.k.a. “Panama,” 39, of Corbett Square, Danielson
- JAVON PRAYLOU, a.k.a. “Joc,” 25, of Shaw Street, New London
- RODNEY MORGAN, a.k.a. “Red,” of Norwich, Connecticut
- WHEELER JOHNSON, 25, of Pleasant Street, New London
- JERIMY ESCALERA, a.k.a. “DJ Gadget,” 23, of Vauxhall Street, New London
- BENJAMIN GREGOR, 24, of Crystal Avenue, New London
- TIFFANY HARRIS, 34, of Federal Street, New London
- AMBER HARRIS, 27, of South Road, Groton
- LETICIA GOOSBY, 27, of Fern Street, New London.
In addition, MAURICE MILLIGAN, 31, of Hawthorne Drive, New London, has been charged by criminal complaint with possession of ammunition by a convicted felon.
The United States Attorney also announced that a federal grand jury sitting in Bridgeport has returned indictments charging the following individuals, who also were arrested during today’s operation, with various crack cocaine distribution offenses:
- DANIEL SCOTT, a.k.a. “D-Money,” 21, of Crystal Avenue, New London
- DION ANTHONY, a.k.a. “Woody,” 24, of Williams Street, New London
- JASON ROBINSON, a.k.a. “Minx,” 41, of New London and Groton
- RICHARD ROWELL, 30, of Norwich and New London
- DARIUS HARRIS, a.k.a. “Fat Boy, 29, of Bristol Street, New London, was arrested on an indictment charging him with unlawful firearms dealing and possession offenses.
In addition to the 18 federal defendants, Task Force agents and officers arrested 28 individuals on state narcotics and firearms charges. The state defendants will be prosecuted by the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office in New London.
Several additional defendants are being sought by law enforcement.
During today’s arrests and the execution of court-authorized search warrants, agents and officers seized firearms, narcotics, cash, and several vehicles.
This afternoon, the federal defendants were presented in U.S. District Court in Hartford and New Haven. Most have been ordered held without bond pending detention hearings that will begin next week. TIFFANY HARRIS, AMBER HARRIS, and LETICIA GOOSBY were released on bonds in the amount of $100,000.
This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anthony E. Kaplan, Sarah P. Karwan, Robert M. Spector and Felice M. Duffy, and Senior Assistant States Attorneys Paul Narducci and Michael Kennedy of the New London States Attorney’s Office.