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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Arizona
For Immediate Release
Gary M. Restaino, United States Attorney
www.justice.gov/usao-az
Friday, October 6, 2023

Mother Sentenced to Prison for Illegally Providing a Firearm to Essa Williams, Alleged Shooter of Phoenix Police Officer Tyler Moldovan

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Erika LaRae Williams, 52, of Tempe, was sentenced on Monday by United States District Judge Steven P. Logan to 10 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Williams pleaded guilty on May 22, 2023, to Making a Material False Statement During the Purchase of a Firearm.

On September 3, 2020, Ms. Williams purchased a Taurus G3 pistol from AZESB, LLC. (dba Mo Money Pawn), a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), in Phoenix. Ms. Williams purchased this firearm for her son, Essa Williams, only five months after his release from the Arizona Department of Corrections for several violent felony convictions. During the purchase of the firearm, Williams completed the Firearms Transactions Record, known as ATF Form 4473. Ms. Williams swore that she was the actual purchaser of the firearm while knowing she was purchasing the firearm on behalf of Essa Williams.

Pursuant to a federal search warrant, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives seized and searched Ms. Williams’ cellular telephone, which revealed a lengthy text exchange with Essa Williams during the purchase of the Taurus G3 pistol. Essa Williams asked his mother via text message which firearm was purchased, what other options were available and whether his mother’s background check went through. Ms. Williams provided Essa Williams details about who assisted in the purchase, and confirmed the purchase was complete.

Essa Williams is pending trial in Maricopa County Superior Court for shooting Phoenix Police Officer Tyler Moldovan on December 14, 2021. The Taurus G3 pistol was not the firearm that was used to shoot Officer Moldovan. On March 10, 2022, pursuant to a search warrant, ATF seized the Taurus G3 pistol from Erika Williams’ residence.

This case was 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 make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.

The ATF conducted the investigation in this case. The United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Phoenix, is handling the prosecution.

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