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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of Ohio
Rebecca C. Lutzko, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Friday, April 19, 2024

Local Men Sentenced to Imprisonment for Illegal Trafficking in Firearms

New Criminal Provisions of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Deters/Prohibit Sales of Firearms Without a License

CLEVELAND – Willie Earl Jackson, age 26, of Cleveland, and Shane Plats, 31, of Ashtabula, were sentenced to imprisonment by U.S. District Judge John. R. Adams. Jackson had earlier pled guilty to engaging in the business of dealing firearms without a federal firearms license and trafficking in firearms. Plats had earlier plead guilty to engaging in the business of dealing firearms. Jackson received an 84-month prison sentence, followed by 3 years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay a $200 special assessment. Plats was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, followed by 2 years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment.

The United States Attorney’s Office (“USAO”) prosecuted these two cases under the new criminal provisions of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which Congress enacted and the President signed in June 2022. The Act is the first federal statute specifically designed to target the unlawful trafficking and straw-purchasing of firearms. These are the first two cases brought under the Act and sentenced in this district.

According to court documents, Plats and Jackson were previously employed as corrections and detention officers for the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court. Between May and July of 2023, Plats sold at least 7 Palmetto Armory Dagger Compact 9mm pistols to Jackson, after Plats first purchased those pistols from a federal firearms licensee, knowing that Jackson intended to resell the firearms to others. Plats admitted he did not have a federal firearms license and illegally sold the firearms for profit.

In turn, between June and August 2023, Jackson sold over 35 firearms to undercover agents who posed as gun buyers seeking to purchase firearms on the street. The firearms that Jackson sold included semi-automatic rifles and pistols, including at least one with an obliterated serial number. Jackson conducted most of these transactions in retail establishment parking lots and other public spaces, often from his car. Jackson offered to sell agents prohibited firearms such as “Glock switches,” also referred to as “machinegun conversion devices,” offered to remove serial numbers from the guns he sold, and sold agents a rifle that NIBIN-data showed was associated with three separate shootings.

Jackson was previously under investigation by the ATF. In 2022, the ATF served Jackson with a warning letter that advised him that it was unlawful to buy a firearm for someone else—often referred to as “straw purchasing.” The ATF sent this letter to Jackson after it discovered, through tracing data, that firearms Jackson had previously purchased were later recovered in connection with crimes. Despite the warning, Jackson continued to illegally traffic in firearms from June through August 2023.

Jackson and Plats were 2 of more than 65 individuals who the USAO charged as a part of a 3-month, violent-crime-reduction initiative in Cleveland last summer led by the ATF and the USAO, with cooperation from other federal, state, and local law enforcement partners. These charges stemmed from extensive, targeted, and sustained efforts by law enforcement to clamp down on illegal firearms trafficking, use, and associated violence in Greater Cleveland.

“The new Bipartisan Safer Communities Act improves our ability to keep illegal firearms out of our neighborhoods and communities,” said United States Attorney Rebecca C. Lutzko. “This new tool in our toolkit targets illegal gun sales. It makes crystal clear that anyone who tries to make money by selling firearms or otherwise selling guns regularly must obtain a federal firearms license and run required background checks on those making the purchase. It also will help reduce the temptation for those who may legally purchase firearms to buy and then sell them to just anyone. Unfortunately, we often see firearms, initially bought through legal channels, later recovered in connection with a crime. We are confident this statute will help put a stop to that.”

“These defendants were both charged with violating the Gun Control Act by selling firearms without a license,” stated Daryl S. McCormick, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Columbus Field Division. “By facilitating the flow of firearms to those who are prohibited from possessing them, they bear responsibility for the violence those firearms cause in our community. I hope this sentence serves as a warning to others who might consider doing this – ATF and our law enforcement partners will work to find you, as well, and hold you accountable for your actions.”

The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the ATF and ATF Task Force Officers, many from the Cleveland Division of Police, with significant help from other federal, state, and local law enforcement partners. Assistant United States Attorney Kelly L. Galvin prosecuted these cases.


Jessica Salas Novak
(216) 622-3921

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