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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Middle District of Florida
Roger B. Handberg, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Thursday, December 1, 2022

Ten-Time Convicted Felon Sentenced to Fifteen Years in Federal Prison for Possessing a Firearm

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Covington Hernandez today sentenced Christopher Deon Townsel (47, Sarasota) to 15 years in federal prison for unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The court also ordered Townsel to forfeit a Hi-Point C9, a 9mm pistol, and assorted ammunition, which were traceable to the offense. Townsel had pleaded guilty on May 24, 2022.

According to court documents, on December 1, 2018, deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office were conducting surveillance at a hotel in Manatee County, looking for a fugitive. The deputies observed a vehicle pull up to the hotel, and a woman leave the hotel and enter into the vehicle. The deputies smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle as the woman opened the passenger door. The deputies approached the vehicle and ordered the driver to stop as the driver began to drive away. The driver stopped the vehicle and deputies observed Townsel in the driver’s seat. One of the deputies observed a black firearm on the driver’s side floorboard of the car. The deputy also observed bags of marijuana in the car.

A crime scene technician swabbed the firearm for DNA and a DNA analyst compared Townsel’s DNA to the samples obtained from the grip of the firearm. Results of the test revealed that Townsel was a contributor from the DNA profile obtained from the grip of the firearm. The firearm had previously been reported stolen. Because Townsel had previously been convicted of several felonies, he is prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under federal law.

This case was investigated by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Charlie D. Connally.

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 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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