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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

District of Minnesota

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

B. Todd Jones, United States Attorney

Contact: Jeanne F. Cooney, Director of Community Relations
(612) 664-5611

Another Armed Career Criminal Sentenced as Part of Project Exile Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS — Earlier today in federal court, a 46–year–old Minneapolis felon was sentenced for possessing a .44–magnum revolver. United States District Court Judge David S. Doty sentenced Michael Edward Willis to 180 months in prison on one count of being an armed career criminal in possession of a firearm. Willis was indicted on January 11, 2011, and pleaded guilty on May 31, 2011. In his plea agreement, Willis admitted possessing the revolver on October 19, 2010.

At approximately 3:00 a.m. on that date, Willis admittedly robbed a woman at gunpoint while she sat in her car in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Minneapolis. Willis approached the driver’s side of the vehicle, pointed the gun at the woman, and demanded that she hand over her purse and iPhone. After receiving the items, Willis fled on foot.

Willis also admitted that at 4:50 a.m. on October 19, he robbed a man at gunpoint while the man sat in his car in a White Castle parking lot in Minneapolis. Willis approached the man, asked for directions, and then pointed the gun at the man’s face while demanding his wallet.

Because he is a felon, Willis is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition at any time. His prior convictions include robbery in Michigan in 1985, first–degree burglary in Wright County, Minnesota, in 2006, and robbery in Dakota County, Minnesota, in 2008. Since at least three of those offenses were crimes of violence, Willis was subject to the federal armed career criminal statute, which mandates a 15–year minimum prison sentence.

Willis is the latest defendant sentenced federally through Project Exile Minneapolis. That law enforcement initiative was launched on July 22, 2010, as part of a city–wide effort to reduce gun violence. Through Project Exile, the Minneapolis Police Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) work together to apprehend serial criminals for violations of gun laws. Then, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office teams up with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine where those offenders will most effectively be prosecuted–state or federal court. Those determinations are based on the offenders’ criminal histories and current charges, among other factors. To date, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has brought charges against approximately 18 serious habitual criminals through Project Exile Minneapolis.

This case was the result of an investigation by the Minneapolis Police Department and the ATF–Violent Crime Impact Team. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly M. Hare.