For Immediate Release
Hogsett Announces Eight Evansville Men Charged With Federal Firearms Violations
EVANSVILLE- Joseph H. Hogsett, United States Attorney and Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Arron Graves announced today that eight Evansville men have been charged with federal firearms violations by a federal grand jury. The indictment was sealed until today when all were arrested and formally charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The charges are the result of an investigation primarily conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Jeffrey Betz, 54, Evansville; Kurtis Black, 48, Evansville; Verdale Fox, 32, Evansville; Larry Lawrence, 29, Evansville; Michael McNary, 26 Evansville; Sendaneo Wallace, 31, Evansville; Terrance Wallace, 29, Evansville
"Protecting our Hoosier communities from those who chose to illegally carry firearms and breed violence is one of my office's top priorities," said Hogsett." If convicted, the citizens of Evansville will not be terrorized by these men for a very long time."
Hogsett continued, "Just last week, an armed career criminal was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Also, last week our Office announced the indictment of two other individuals who, if convicted, will qualify as armed career criminals. This recent spate of arrests sends a powerful message of deterrence to those who would seek to make the streets of Evansville unsafe. That will not happen under our watch."
"ATF is committed to combating gun violence in our communities," said Michael Boxler ATF Special Agent in Charge for the Columbus Field Division. "We will continue to work to make communities across the country safer from those who would threaten them."
The indictments charge all of the defendants with crimes involving firearms. Seven out of the eight defendants are charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Many of the defendants were also charged with possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number. Defendant Fox is also alleged to be an armed career criminal, which will carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years if convicted. The defendants have criminal felony convictions including theft, robbery, narcotics possession, domestic battery, burglary and child molest representing 29 total felonies between them.
Deric West, 22, Evansville, was charged with being a "straw purchaser" of the firearms for many of those defendants who happen to be convicted felons. A straw purchaser falsifies ATF firearm forms which require that the purchaser of a gun state he is the actual buyer of the firearm. The government alleges that West straw purchased four handguns, one rifle and a shotgun. If convicted West faces a maximum of lO years imprisonment, and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Today's press conference is in furtherance of the United States Attorney's Office commitment announced in March of 2011, of a Violent Crime Initiative which would represent a district-wide strategy to work with local law enforcement and county prosecutors to combat drug traffickers and criminals that use and carry firearms in their illegal activities. Since 2011, the VCI has produced a dramatic increase in the number of gun-related charges brought federally. In the year preceding the initiative, there were just 14 defendants charged with federal gun crimes by the U.S. Attorney's Office. In the nearly three years since, more than 225 defendants have been charged.
"Through our Violent Crime Initiative and in working with our law enforcement partners here in the Vanderburgh County area, we are sending a united message that illegally-armed felons will face the full force of federal law." said Hogsett.
Other participating agencies in today’s takedown include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshal's Service, the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office, the Henderson County KY Sheriff's Office, the Princeton Police Department, the Boonville Police Department, the Evansville Fire Investigations, the Warrick County Sheriff’s Office, the Dubois County Sheriff’s Office, and the Indiana Excise Police.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Wheatley, who is prosecuting the case for the government, all of the defendants face multiple year imprisonment, and a maximum fine of
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.