By: Beth Gosselin
Keeping communities safe by combating firearms trafficking and violent crime - both part of the core mission of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Recently, ATF, along with U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker and the Eastern District of North Carolina United States Attorney's Office (USAO), highlighted the success of this mission in Sharpsburg, N.C. The leader of a violent criminal drug enterprise, Tovaris Battle, stole firearms and bought them illegally from drug users in order to further his criminal organization.
ATF along with partner law enforcement agencies investigated Battle and his organization from May 2011 to July 2013. The investigation revealed these illegally-obtained weapons were used in a number of crimes. Members of the gang were involved in numerous kidnappings and a home invasion which resulted in the shooting of one occupant of the house and extreme violence against other occupants during the gangs search for drugs and money.
"Gangs remain key distributors of illegal narcotics in the United States and are negligent and indifferent in their use of firearms to commit violence and intimidation in order to accomplish their criminal goals," said Special Agent Tim Graden, a veteran ATF Agent and key figure in the success of this case. "Because criminal organizations frequently use firearms, ATF uses its expertise in illegal firearms trafficking deterrence and enforcement to address violent crime and gang activity."
The success of ATF's mission to fight violent crime is dependent upon the positive working relationships between ATF and our state and local counterparts. Throughout this case, ATF worked side-by-side with the Rocky Mount Police Department, Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to identify the "worst of the worst" offenders. This partnership used strategic law enforcement techniques such as surveillance, confidential informants and cooperating defendant interviews to charge and successfully prosecute gang members.
Chief United States District Judge James C. Dever, III sentenced the leader of this gang to life imprisonment plus 120 months on Nov. 18, 2014. Twelve additional members and associates of the gang received sentences ranging from three to 40 years in federal prison. The sentences were based upon their earlier guilty pleas to firearm charges and the distribution of large quantities of cocaine and cocaine base (crack) in the Sharpsburg area.
"ATF stands up for the citizen who lives in fear of the gang in their neighborhood ? the one trying to recruit a child at school, the one selling drugs on the block, the one whose stray bullet ended the life of their neighbor's child," added Charlotte Field Division Special Agent in Charge Wayne L. Dixie, Jr. "ATF fights these acts of violence and removes violent crime from the street to create a safer community."