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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Scott W. Brady
, United States Attorney

ATF Thwarts Felon’s Plan to Hide Firearms Evidence

PITTSBURGH - A resident of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of illegally possessing firearms and attempting to tamper with evidence, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
 
Nicholas John Padak, 31, pleaded guilty yesterday to four counts before Senior United States District Judge Donetta W. Ambrose.
 
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that a defendant named Erik Lowry operated a gun store known as Pittsburgh Tactical Firearms. Gun dealers are required to keep records on every firearm that is acquired or disposed of by the dealership, including those that are brought in for sale, trade, or repair. An ATF review of PTF’s books showed that defendant Nicholas Padak had brought two military-style rifles in for repair. Padak has a February 19, 2014 felony conviction in Beaver County for Theft by Unlawful Taking, which precludes him from lawfully possessing a firearm or ammunition.
 
ATF agents approached Padak on April 11, 2016, away from his residence, and he agreed to go with them to turn over his illegal firearms. Padak then surreptitiously phoned his mother, and agents at the home Padak shared with his mother observed her carrying multiple guns outside in an effort to hide them in the trunk of a car. ATF was able to seize the six firearms and ammunition belonging to Padak before they were removed from the premises. One of those guns was a 300 Blackout caliber semi-automatic Anderson short-barreled rifle, which is required to be registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, but was not. Padak also possessed a seventh firearm, which he purchased illegally on April 30, 2015, and later sold after picking it up from Lowry on July 30, 2015.
 
Erik Lowry, of McKeesport, was prosecuted and sentenced in January 2018 to 30 months in prison, followed by three years supervised release, and a fine of $30,000, for possessing an unregistered firearm, witness tampering, and attempting to tamper with evidence. Renaissance Electric, LLC, aka Pittsburgh Tactical Firearms, was also prosecuted and is no longer doing business.
 
Judge Ambrose scheduled Padak’s sentencing for September 3, 2019 at 10 a.m. The law provides for the forfeiture and destruction of the firearms and ammunition, as well as a total sentence of up to 50 years in prison, a fine of up to $1,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history of the defendant.
 
Assistant United States Attorney Ross E. Lenhardt is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
 
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) conducted the investigation leading to the successful conviction of both Lowry and Padak. This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The government has made turning the tide of rising violent crime in America a top priority. In October 2017, as part of a series of actions to address this crime trend, the Attorney General announced the reinvigoration of PSN and all U.S. Attorney’s Offices were directed to develop a district crime reduction strategy that incorporates the lessons learned since PSN launched in 2001.
 
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Philadelphia Field Division