For Immediate Release
Bristol Man Involved in Gun Trafficking Scheme Sentenced to Prison
Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that JOSHUA BENTZ, 39, of Bristol, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to 24 months of imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release, for illegally trafficking firearms from South Carolina to Connecticut.
According to court documents and statements made in court, in 2020, ATF and Hartford Police recovered multiple firearms that had been purchased in South Carolina. In July 2020, one of the firearms was found in the possession of a convicted felon. In September and October 2020, additional firearms were recovered at the scenes of two separate homicides in Hartford. The investigation revealed that Alberto Vazquez, of Hartford, conspired with Bentz and others to purchase firearms from a licensed gun dealer in Columbia, South Carolina, transport them to Connecticut, and sell them to felons and other customers in the Hartford area.
Vazquez, Bentz, and their coconspirators purchased approximately 37 firearms through this scheme. Twenty-eight of these firearms were purchased by Bentz’s wife, Tywonda Bentz, in South Carolina between May and July 2020.
Bentz was arrested on April 21, 2021. On November 23, 2021, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deal in firearms without a license, to unlawfully transport firearms, and to make false statements to law enforcement.
Bentz, who is released on a $100,000 bond, is required to report to prison on August 24.
Vazquez, whose criminal history includes convictions for felony weapon possession, robbery, and larceny offenses, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deal in firearms without a license and to unlawfully transport firearms, unlawful transportation of firearms, and unlawful possession of firearms by a felon. On October 11, 2022, he was sentenced to 120 months of imprisonment.
Tywonda Bentz pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
This investigation has been conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Hartford Police Department; the Columbia (S.C.) Police Department; and the Richland County (S.C.) Sheriff’s Department.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara E. Levens through Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. In May 2021, the Justice Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: Fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.