For Immediate Release
Elmira Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing and Illegally Selling Guns
ROCHESTER, N.Y.--U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Douglas Church, 23, OF Elmira, NY, pleaded guilty to conspiring to deal firearms without a license and possession of stolen firearms. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Zachary Smith, and Brianna Lowe, all of Elmira, N.Y., have been arrested and charged by criminal complaint with conspiring to deal firearms without a license and possession of stolen firearms. In addition, defendants Church and Smith are charged with dealing firearms without a license. The conspiracy charge carries a penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Possession of stolen firearms and dealing firearms without a license carry a penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa M. Marangola, who is handling the case, stated that on October 16, 2013 at approximately 3:05 a.m., the owner of “Scott’s Guns” on Watkins Drive in Horseheads, NY received a telephone call from his security alarm company. The owner alerted police and then went to the store. Upon entering the store, the owner realized he had been burglarized. The owner determined that 49 handguns of various makes and models had been stolen.
As part of their investigation, law enforcement officers reviewed footage from a security camera inside the store which revealed two individuals inside the store during regular business hours the day before, October 15, 2013. Officers recognized the two individuals to be Douglas Church and Zachary Smith. Additional investigation revealed that Church and Smith burglarized the store by having Church climb through a hole in the wall of the building, with Church handing the weapons to Smith. The two men left the guns in backpacks in a swamp behind the building the night of the burglary, with Smith and his girlfriend, Brianna Lowe, retrieving the guns the following day. Investigation also revealed that many of the guns were sold within a week and a half of the burglary in exchange for money.
Charges are also pending against Zachary Smith and Brianna Lowe, both of Elmira. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The plea is the result of an investigation on the part of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James S. Higgins, New York Field Office, the Horseheads Police Department, under the direction of Acting Chief Scott Zelko, The New York State Police, under the direction of Major Scott Crosier, the Chemung County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Christopher Moss, the Elmira Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michael Robertson, the Elmira Heights Police Department, under the direction of Chief A. Rich Churches, and the West Elmira Police Department, under the direction of Chief Peter Michalko.