DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Southern District of West Virginia

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Michael B. Stuart
, United States Attorney
Contact: Deanna Eder

Wood County Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Gun Charge

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A Wood County man who operated a pawn shop in Mineral Wells pled guilty to a federal gun charge, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  Alonzo Clark Nichols, 38, entered a guilty plea to possession of an unregistered machine gun.  Stuart commended the investigative efforts of the Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force (PNTF) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).  

“This is an egregious case,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “Firearms dealers are held to a common standard of complying with federal laws. In the wrong hands, the modified firearm could’ve been the instrument of the next terrible disaster. We will not tolerate such disregard for laws that are intended to protect law enforcement and the public.”

In January 2019, Nichols was a federally licensed firearms dealer operating 5 Star Pawn on Elizabeth Pike in Mineral Wells.  On January 4, 2019, Nichols gave a police officer a gun part called an auto sear designed to convert a pistol from semiautomatic to fully automatic.  On January 8, 2019, Nichols sold another auto sear to the officer.  On January 11, 2019, PNTF and ATF agents executed a search warrant at 5 Star Pawn where they seized additional auto sears and several rounds of 25mm high explosive incendiary tracers used by the United States military.  Auto sears meet the definition of machinegun under federal law.  Consequently, it is unlawful to possess an auto sear unless it has been registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.  Despite having a federal firearms license, Nichols did not have authority to possess or sell machineguns, machinegun parts, or other National Firearms Act (NFA) weapons.  He faces up to ten years in federal prison when he is sentenced on September 25, 2019.

Assistant United States Attorney Joshua C. Hanks is handling the prosecution.  Senior United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. 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.

Louisville Field Division