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Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs
Contact: Corey Stephan
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, April 3, 2024

La Crosse Gun Store Burglar Sentenced to 6.5 Years in Prison for Illegally Possessing Guns

MADISON, WIS. – Timothy M. O’Shea, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Mackey Drake, 23, La Crosse, Wisconsin, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge William M. Conley to 6 ½ years in prison for possessing firearms as a felon. Drake pleaded guilty to this charge on January 17, 2024. The prison term is to be followed by 3 years of supervised release.

On April 25, 2023, at approximately 3:00 a.m., Drake and two others broke into a gun store in Rockland, Wisconsin, and stole 41 firearms and cash. Law enforcement quickly identified Drake and arrested him later in the day when he arrived at a meeting with his state Department of Corrections agent. Drake was on extended supervision at the time, after serving prison sentences for felony robbery convictions in 2017 and 2020. Drake admitted to participating in the gun store burglary, and that he sold some of the firearms to Briante Banks, a felon who could not legally possess them. Banks was charged and pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing a firearm as a felon. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 26, 2024.

At sentencing, Judge Conley noted that some of the guns stolen were still on the street, likely in hands of prohibited persons, and may be used to commit crimes. Judge Conley found that a substantial sentence was necessary to protect the community from Drake, who has shown a propensity for violence in an unbroken chain of criminal conduct. Judge Conley also ordered Drake to pay restitution.

“Community safety—where every child can play outside without fear of gun violence and where neighbors feel safe—is paramount for the United States Department of Justice,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy O’Shea. “I am grateful to the ATF, La Crosse Police Department, and La Crosse County Sheriff’s Office for moving quickly to solve this crime which put dangerous weapons in the hands of criminals.”

“Firearms trafficking is a tactic that prohibited persons use to acquire firearms and perpetrate violent crime within our communities,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Travis Riddle, of the St. Paul Field Division. “We are sincerely grateful for our partnership with La Crosse Police Department and La Crosse County Sheriff’s Office and for their diligence that directly led to the swift arrest of the perpetrators and led to the recovery of a majority of the stolen firearms, preventing them from reaching the hands of violent criminals. I am also grateful for the U.S. Attorney’s prosecutorial work on this case, obtaining justice for the federal firearms licensee as well as ensuring these defendants are held accountable for their actions.”

Nehemiah Sample and Robert Benson were also charged in connection with the Rockland gun store burglary. Sample pleaded guilty to theft of firearms and was sentenced to 24 months in prison. Robert Benson’s case is still pending, and he is presumed innocent of these charges.

The charges against Drake, Sample, Benson, and Banks were the result of an investigation conducted by the La Crosse Police Department, La Crosse County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Stephan prosecuted these cases.

These cases have been brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the U.S. Justice Department’s program to reduce violent crime. The PSN approach emphasizes coordination between state and federal prosecutors and all levels of law enforcement to address gun crime, especially felons illegally possessing firearms and ammunition and violent and drug crimes that involve the use of firearms.

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