For Immediate Release
Live Oak Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiring To Possess and Transfer Unregistered Firearm Silencers
Jacksonville, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Gregory Austin Eward (25, Live Oak) today pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess and transfer unregistered firearm silencers. Eward faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, Eward and his father and co-defendant, Dustin Eward, operated Eward Research Inc., a company that marketed and sold firearm silencers (also known as suppressors) over the internet. In lightly coded language, their website, ewardresearch.com, advertised the sale of combinations of parts designed and intended for use in assembling firearm silencers – never using the term “silencer,” but referring to individual components as “toobz,” threaded “end caps,” “spacers,” and “spools.” Sales could be completed with either cash or cryptocurrency. The website included photographs of the items for sale, which were identifiable as components of firearms silencers.
In 2018, Dustin Eward was interviewed by two FBI Special Agents. He told the agents that he lived with his son and that they operated a business out of their home. According to Dustin Eward, they produced and sold “solvent traps” and adaptors for firearms. It is common for sellers of illicit firearms silencers to falsely claim that their products are not actually silencers, but instead are “solvent traps,” that is, devices supposedly designed to catch or “trap” dirty cleaning solvent pushed through the barrel of a firearm from the chamber end and out through the muzzle.
In January and again in February 2022, an undercover ATF Special Agent ordered three silencers from the Ewards, paying for them with cryptocurrency. Surveillance video from a post office showed Gregory Eward mailing one of the parcels containing silencers that the agent eventually received.
The devices were examined by an ATF Firearms Enforcement Officer and firearms expert who concluded that the devices were consistent in design and construction with firearms silencers that he had examined in the past and he recognized the devices to be firearms silencers. The officer noted that to make the silencers functional, an end-user would need to drill center holes through the silencers’ baffles and end cap; the officer estimated, however, that this task only would require five to ten minutes to complete. Notably, also included in the parcels that the Ewards had mailed were 3D-printed tools, including a tool designed to act as a “jig” to accurately guide the drilling of center holes through the silencers. These silencers were not registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, as required by federal law.
At the time of his arrest, on May 9, 2022, Gregory Eward had a Glock-type handgun on the back seat of the car. The pistol had no serial number and was loaded. Agents also located three rifle bump-stocks in the car’s open trunk. These devices also had no serial numbers.
During an interview after his arrest, Gregory Eward acknowledged that he was the CEO of Eward Research and that he and his father worked for the company. He volunteered that his products look like silencers, but he denied that he was selling these products as silencers or silencer kits. He later acknowledged that their products were similar to silencers, and they would operate as silencers if a hole was drilled through them. Eward claimed that these products were intended to store small items, such as fishing line, a syringe, or a towel.
On May 10, 2022, FBI and ATF Special Agents executed a search warrant at the Ewards’ home. They located approximately 105 firearms, over 12,000 rounds of ammunition, and 35 assembled firearms silencers. There was also a sufficient quantity of parts (including metallic tubes, baffles, and threaded endcaps), which were designed or redesigned, and intended for use in assembling or fabricating more than 300 additional firearm silencers.
Gregory Eward’s co-defendant, Dustin Eward, is scheduled to proceed to trial in June 2023. He is charged by indictment with conspiracy to possess and distribute unregistered silencers, possession of unregistered silencers, transfer of unregistered silencers, and threatening to assault and murder a federal law enforcement officer. An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
“This outcome reflects the tireless efforts of investigators from several federal, state and local agencies,” said ATF Tampa Field Division’s Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard Coes. “Northeast Florida is much safer today, thanks to their teamwork.”
“Although law enforcement continues to fight violent crime, it remains a threat in too many of our communities,” said Sherri E. Onks, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division. “The FBI and our local, state and federal law enforcement partners remain focused on identifying and investigating those who commit violent crime, including those who traffic in illegal firearms. Let this case be a warning that we will not rest while Americans live in fear of violence in their neighborhoods.”
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office, the Live Oak Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, and the Lake City Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kirwinn Mike, Michael J. Coolican, and Cherie Krigsman.
This case is 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 gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.