For Immediate Release
Cincinnati man pleads guilty to leading firearms conspiracy involving 56 guns purchased online with stolen credit cards
CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today to crimes related to buying firearms with stolen credit card information and leading a conspiracy to pick up the firearms in illegal straw purchases, as well as separately obtaining a fraudulent COVID-relief loan.
Zephaniah Jones, 21, admitted to conspiring to make false statements on federal firearms forms, aggravated identity theft, and making false statements to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
According to court documents, from April through July 2022, Jones and others attempted to place online orders for firearms with Guns.com and other online retailers for delivery to Cincinnati. Jones and his coconspirators completed online orders for 56 firearms and succeeded in obtaining at least 37.
Under federal law, the firearms could not be shipped directly to Jones or a coconspirator; they had to be shipped to a local federal firearms licensee (FFL). At the FFL, Jones’s coconspirators lied on ATF Form 4473, a form required when purchasing a firearm from an FFL, by pretending to be the actual buyer of the firearms. In fact, the firearms were for Jones, who intended to resell them.
Jones used stolen credit card information and billing addresses to place all the orders. For example, within two weeks in June and July 2022, Jones used the credit card information of three individuals to make purchases of firearms totaling more than $15,000. Jones bought large numbers of the same or similar models of firearms, intending to resell them. For example, he bought at least 14 Glock pistols, 11 F.N. Five-Seven pistols, and six FN 509 pistols.
Some of the guns involved in the conspiracy were traced to crimes within a short period of time. For example, just 15 days after purchase, one pistol was used to shoot into an occupied residence in Columbus; it was later also used in a shots-fired incident and a separate felonious assault. Another pistol was recovered from a juvenile less than three months after purchase, after being used in a different shots-fired incident in Columbus.
Separately, in February 2020, Jones submitted a fraudulent application for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, falsely claiming that he owned a business called Jones Lawncare LLC. As a result, Jones was awarded a PPP loan for nearly $21,000 that was later forgiven.
Parties involved in Jones’s case have recommended a sentence of 79 months in prison. Five other coconspirators in the straw-purchasing conspiracy have been charged federally.
Kenneth L. Parker, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Daryl S. McCormick, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) announced the guilty plea entered today before Senior U.S. District Judge Michael R. Barrett. Assistant United States Attorney Julie D. Garcia is representing the United States in this case. The case investigated by the ATF with assistance from the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.