DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of Michigan

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Andrew B. Birge
, United States Attorney
Contact: Anne Towns

Man Once Committed to Mental Institution Convicted of Possessing Firearms

Former security guard admits knowing he should not have had guns

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Joseph James Shingola II, age 50, of Comstock Park pled guilty yesterday to being a prohibited person in possession of firearms. Shingola was involuntarily committed to a mental institution in 1988, which made him ineligible to possess firearms under federal law. He did not disclose the commitment in subsequent applications to purchase guns and carry them as a security guard.

In August of 2018, Special Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) received information that Shingola had been committed, which they confirmed through Probate Court records. When they contacted Shingola to advise him he could not possess firearms, he denied having any and drove to his mother’s house in Grand Rapids. Agents executed search warrants at both residences and found seven firearms; including an AR-15 style assault rifle, and two semiautomatic pistols hidden under a mattress.

Since his arrest, Shingola claimed he believed his commitment had been voluntary, and that he would not have possessed firearms if he had known he was prohibited. On November 7, 2019, however, Shingola violated his bond by asking his daughter to buy him a gun. She refused. After a contested hearing, the Hon. Philip J. Green, United States Magistrate Judge revoked the defendant’s bond and ordered him jailed pending trial. Shingola changed his plea, and admitted today that he knew he was a prohibited person when he possessed the firearms seized by ATF. This case was not Shingola’s first firearms-related contact with law enforcement: In 2017, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office took his guns away temporarily after an episode of erratic behavior. In 2018, Shingola displayed a semiautomatic pistol during a traffic-related incident with another motorist. “Mental health issues and guns do not mix,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge. “Federal law prohibits those who have been ordered committed to mental institutions from possessing firearms and my office and our partners at ATF will work to see that this does not happen.”

The defendant will be sentenced by the Hon. Janet T. Neff, United States District Judge, at a date to be set by the Court. He faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment, a $ 250,000 fine, and the forfeiture of all his firearms.

This case is part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS); and ensures that federal resources are directed at those posing the greatest threat to our communities. For more information about Project Guardian, please see https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-william-p-barr-announces-launch-project-guardian-nationwide-strategic-plan.

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Detroit Field Division