For Immediate Release
Wood County Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Gun Charge
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A Wood County man who possessed firearms after being involuntarily committed to a mental hospital pled guilty to a federal gun charge, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart. Benjamin Lee Parsons, 31, of Mineral Wells, entered a guilty plea to illegal possession of a firearm. Stuart commended the investigative efforts of the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, the Parkersburg Narcotics and Violent Crimes Task Force (PNTF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
“Excellent work by law enforcement,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “These guns were definitely in the wrong hands.”
On October 31, 2018, investigators executed a federal search warrant on a wooded property in Mineral Wells where Parsons had been living in a tent. The search warrant was the culmination of an investigation of Parsons related to his acquisition of a high-capacity semiautomatic FNH model M249S 5.56 caliber assault rifle. The rifle is the semiautomatic civilian version of the Squad Assault Weapon (SAW) used by the United States military. Federal and local police learned that Parsons had obtained the weapon from another individual who told investigators that he had purchased it for Parsons from a licensed firearms dealer in Marietta, Ohio. When investigators executed the search warrant, they recovered the FNH assault rifle and a Molot 5.45x39mm rifle from a locked case Parsons kept at his campsite on the property. The FNH was loaded with approximately 190 rounds of belted ammunition in a drum magazine. Investigators also located and seized 12 magazines for the Molot loaded with 164 rounds of ammunition, 32 additional unloaded magazines, and approximately 640 rounds of 9mm and other rifle ammunition.
Parsons was prohibited from possessing the firearms and ammunition as a result of having been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in February 2017 by Wood County Circuit Judge Jason Wharton. Parsons faces up to 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on August 27, 2019.
Assistant United States Attorney Joshua C. Hanks is handling the prosecution. Senior United States District David A. Faber presided over the plea hearing.
This case is being prosecuted as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.