For Immediate Release
Federal And Local Law Enforcement Agencies Announce Operation Scarecrow
HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the York County District Attorney’s Office, and the York City Police Department announced a joint initiative (Operation Scarecrow) that targets individuals who illegally purchase and possess firearms in York County. Operation Scarecrow will focus on individuals who are prohibited from possessing firearms due to a prior felony conviction who use third parties (“straw parties”) to purchase firearms on their behalf. Under federal and state law, such transactions are illegal and both the prohibited person and the straw party are subject to criminal prosecution for engaging in this type of behavior.
Operation Scarecrow began on January 20, 2021 and has thus far resulted in 19 firearms being recovered. As a result of the operation, the U.S. Attorney's Office has charged the following individuals:
Jahzaire Jahzaire Gilliam, age 19, York, PA, charged with conspiring to make a false statement during the purchase of a firearm; two counts of receipt of firearm by person under indictment; possession of firearm by unlawful user of controlled substance; distribution of marijuana; possession with intent to distribute marijuana; and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking;
Hannah Lapham, age 22, York, PA, charged with conspiring to make and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm;
Donte Christian, age 45, of Baltimore, MD, charged with four counts of making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm; and
Nijee Baskins, age 21, York, PA, charged with two counts of making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.
The investigations are continuing, and numerous other individuals are expected to be charged in both federal and state court in the near future.
“Taking illegal guns off the streets is a high priority of the Department of Justice,” stated Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler. “Illegal guns fuel the epidemic of violence we see too often in York, and around the nation. We will work with all our state and local partners to reduce gun violence and investigate any and all suspicious straw party transactions that result in felons or other prohibited persons illegally possessing firearms.”
“When a person chooses to purchase a firearm under false pretenses, these firearms more often than not end up on the streets and into the hands of criminals,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “Successful investigations like these, exemplifies ATF’s dedication to our local, state and federal partners in working together to keep our streets safe from gun violence. I would like to thank the York City Police Department, the York County Drug Task Force, the York County District Attorney’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office for their continued support in our important mission to protect the public.”
The indictments are the result of an investigation by ATF, York City Police Department, the York County Drug Task Force, and the York County District Attorney’s Office.
These cases are part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.
Indictments are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
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