Department of Justice
For Immediate Release
FFL Sentenced for Selling Guns to Unlicensed Dealers
A federally licensed firearms dealer was sentenced today to four years in federal prison for selling guns to unlicensed dealers for resale, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham.
Jonathan Ludlow, 48, pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to deal in firearms without a license and make false statements on ATF forms as well as possession of an unregistered silencer. He was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Reed C. O’Connor in Fort Worth.
“Federal firearm laws are designed to keep guns out the wrong hands. Responsible licensed gun dealers are often the first line of defense in this endeavor. Licensed dealers who know their buyers intend to immediately resell their guns – quite possibly to individuals who cannot pass a background check – must not complete that sale. Doing so could have deadly serious consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham. “ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will not allow people like Mr. Ludlow to flout laws that save lives.”
“Today is a good day for ATF and all of its partners with this sentencing. Mr. Ludlow, a federal firearms licensee, knew the laws and intentionally skirted them. By doing so, he has put hundreds of guns on the streets of the DFW metroplex and beyond. Because of his recklessness, we will continue to relive his crimes for years as more of his crime guns are recovered,” said ATF Dallas Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey C. Boshek II. “ATF remains staunch in its tireless pursuit of licensed firearms dealers that commit criminal acts.”
In plea papers, Mr. Ludlow, a federally licensed firearms dealer (FFL), admitted he regularly sold large quantities of identical firearms – including numerous AR-15 style pistols – to unlicensed associates, knowing full well that they intended to immediately engage in the business of reselling the guns for profit. The transactions were conducted out of Mr. Ludlow’s vehicle in various locations across the DFW Metroplex, and were typically completed in cash.
Two such associates, Romello Harris and Christopher Meza, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Mr. Ludlow to deal firearms without licenses. (Mr. Harris was sentenced earlier this month to 37 months in federal prison; Mr. Meza is awaiting sentencing.)
In order to conceal their crimes, Mr. Harris and Mr. Meza lied on ATF form 4473, indicating that they were the “actual transferees” of the firearms when they were not. On those same forms, Mr. Ludlow often lied about the date and location of the transaction, the type of firearms sold, and details regarding compliance with the NICS background check.
Under federal law, FFLs are prohibited from selling to straw purchasers or unlicensed dealers who they know are “engaged in the business of selling firearms,” defined as repeatedly devoting time and attention to purchasing and reselling guns for pecuniary gain. Background checks are not necessarily required for in-state, private transfers, but those engaged in the business of selling firearms must be federally licensed and run background checks on their buyers.
In July 2021, ATF executed a federal search warrant on Mr. Ludlow’s residence in Aledo, Texas, where agents seized more than 100 firearms, including 17 AR-15 style firearms, 12 Glock pistols, and approximately 10 unregistered silencers, all of which were later forfeited. At that time, Mr. Ludlow surrendered his federal firearms license.
At Friday’s sentencing hearing, prosecutors said that traces linked Mr. Ludlow to numerous guns recovered from crime scenes across the state of Texas, including multiple homicides. Others guns that originated with Mr. Ludlow were found in the hands of criminals, and still more were recovered in foreign countries.
In addition to the conspiracy, Mr. Ludlow admitted to possession of an unregistered silencer roughly 6 inches long and 1 3/8 inches in diameter.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Dallas Field Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Levi Thomas is prosecuting all three cases.