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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Montana
Jesse Laslovich, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Billings Man Sentenced to Prison for Stealing Firearms in Pawn Shop Burglary

BILLINGS, Mont. — A Billings man who admitted to stealing six firearms after breaking into a pawn shop in Billings was sentenced today to 18 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Eric Frederick Welch, Jr, 22, pleaded guilty in August to an indictment charging him with theft from a federal firearms licensee and possession of stolen firearms.

U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided. The court also ordered $3,025 in restitution.

In court documents, the government alleged that in the early morning hours of June 12, Welch broke into Yellowstone Pawn and stole six firearms. Welch had been released on conditions on state charges just over a month earlier, and he used a truck he had stolen two days before to conduct the pawn shop burglary. Welch fled from law enforcement and threw one of the stolen firearms before being arrested.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas K. Godfrey prosecuted the case. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Billings Police Department conducted the investigation.

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 of Justice 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.

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