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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Western District of Missouri

For Immediate Release

October 18, 2011

Beth Phillips, United States Attorney

Contact: Don LedFord, Public Affairs
(816) 426-4220

Greene County Man Pleads Guilty Following Two Police Chases; Faces At Least 15 Years in Prison

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Greene County, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to illegally possessing firearms and to counterfeiting after being arrested following two police pursuits in stolen vehicles, in which he rammed another vehicle and fired a shotgun at its occupants and attempted to carjack two vehicles.

Timothy W. Sparks, 48, of Greene County, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. England to illegally possessing firearms and counterfeiting.

Sparks admitted that he broke into a Strafford, Mo., residence on Dec. 17, 2009, and stole several items, including two rifles and a shotgun. Sparks carried a sawed-off Hercules single-shot .410-caliber shotgun during the burglary, which he left behind in the house along with 14 shotgun shells. Law enforcement investigators later matched DNA from the shotgun to Sparks.

Sparks, driving a stolen Ford Expedition westbound on U.S. Interstate 44 in Greene County, tailgated another vehicle and rammed it from behind on Dec. 23, 2009. The other vehicle, a 2007 Pontiac Grand Prix, was occupied by a married couple from Indiana who were on their way to Branson, Mo. Sparks then passed the Pontiac and displayed a shotgun, later determined to be the firearm stolen in the Strafford burglary. The couple followed Sparks’ vehicle and called 911. Sparks took U.S. Highway 61, then exited the highway near Kearney Street. The couple followed Sparks to a parking lot, where he turned around and drove toward them while pointing the shotgun in their direction. They ducked, and Sparks discharged the shotgun as he passed.

Law enforcement officers from both the Springfield Police Department and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office responded, and a lengthy pursuit ensued. Sparks crashed his vehicle (the stolen Ford Expedition) in a ditch to the side of I-44, east of Highway 65, and abandoned it. He fled on foot, with officers in pursuit, through a business on East Mustard Way.

Sparks attempted to carjack two vehicles. He approached the driver of the first car and attempted to pull him from it while threatening him with a silver folding knife. The driver pushed Sparks back, and Sparks then ran toward another car. Sparks opened the driver-side door and attempted to physically remove a woman from the driver’s seat. She grabbed onto the steering wheel and resisted being pulled from the car. The pursuing officers had by this time arrived, and Sparks was apprehended after a further brief foot chase and struggle.

Under federal law, anyone convicted of a felony is prohibited from possessing any firearm or ammunition. Sparks has two prior felony convictions for burglary, two prior felony convictions for stealing, and prior felony convictions for resisting arrest and passing a bad check.

On March 17, 2011, an officer of the Strafford Police Department attempted to conduct a traffic stop of a black 1995 Lexus, later determined to have been stolen, which was being driven by Sparks and occupied by one other person. Sparks attempted to elude the officer, and a vehicle pursuit ensued which traveled over several city streets. While in Strafford, Sparks drove through several stop signs and reached speeds of 85 miles per hour in 30-m.p.h. zones, near which children were playing. The pursuit continued out of town on Farm Road 245, and continued onto Farm Road 104, then Farm Road 249. Just past the intersection of Farm Roads 249 and 116, Sparks drove through a barbed wire fence and crashed in a field. Sparks and his passenger fled on foot and Sparks was apprehended nearby.

Police officers found 28 counterfeit bills (in $10, $20 and $50 denominations) totaling $550. During a search of the stolen Lexus, officers found a laptop computer, a computer printer/copier/scanner, $1,430 worth of counterfeit bills, both cut and uncut, four bleached genuine $5 bills, a plastic bag containing $1,800 in counterfeit bills. The total amount of counterfeit bills possessed by Sparks was $3,780.

Under federal statutes, Sparks is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. It was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Greene County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department.