A Federal Way man and his mother suspected of illegal firearms purchases were indicted by a federal grand jury on Nov. 7 in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
The jury returned a 10-count indictment that charged 20-year-old Leontai Berry, of Federal Way, and his 40-year-old mother, Shannon McCall, of Seattle, with conspiracy to purchase firearms in violation of federal law.
According to charging documents, McCall purchased five firearms from a licensed dealer in Renton between August 2017 and January 2019. She allegedly lied on the purchasing forms (ATF Form 4473), answering “yes” to the question asking whether she was the actual buyer of the firearm listed on the form. She allegedly purchased the firearms on behalf of her son, who was under the legal age of 21 to purchase a firearm.
It was part of the conspiracy that Berry allegedly gave his mother money that she used to purchase the firearms, which included two Glock 23 .40 caliber pistols, a 9x19mm Glock 19 pistol, a Glock 27 .40 caliber pistol and a Century Arms M92 semi-automatic pistol.
Charging documents outline several instances wherein Berry sent his mother Facebook messages asking her to purchase rifles or obtain information about the prices of specific pistols.
Berry was also charged with possessing a machine gun, as he allegedly converted some of the pistols to machine guns. This includes the Glock 19 pistol in which he installed with an aftermarket Glock conversion device, according to charging documents.
Some of the firearms are also linked to gang-related shootings and possession by felons, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Both Berry and his mother were charged with making false statements in connection with purchasing firearms, and McCall was charged with making a false statement to federal officers.
On July 1, in Renton, McCall told a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that several of the firearms she had purchased were stored with her “Uncle James” in his safe, charging documents continue. However, the statement was false because as McCall knew her “Uncle James” did not exist, she was no longer in possession of the firearms and she did not know where the firearms were located, the documents continue.
The charges contained in the indictments are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the DOJ.
Berry plead not guilty to the charges on Nov. 13. He was released from custody on Nov. 15 and was hooked up to a location monitoring program on Monday. He is restricted to his Federal Way residence except for employment, religious services, medical and legal reasons. Berry is expected to appear for his next hearing in U.S. District Court on Jan. 21, 2020.
The grand jury returned a second indictment against 26-year-old Carl Deandre Kemp, of Seattle, charging him with making a false statement in the acquisition of a firearm.
Berry, McCall and Kemp’s arrests highlight the U.S. Department of Justice’s focus on combating gun crime under “Project Guardian,” according to a DOJ press release. Attorney General William P. Barr launched the initiative on Nov. 13 that aims to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws across the country.
One emphasis of the initiative aims to increase the prosecution of so-called “lie and buy” cases where the purchaser is buying a firearm for a prohibited person.
“Project Guardian furthers our efforts to stop gun violence in Western Washington, by enhancing coordination between federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement,” stated U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran in the press release. “This ATF-led operation arrested three people on indictments charging them with lying on federal forms to purchase guns that were destined for felons, individuals associated with violent street gangs, and others who simply should not have a firearm.”
Barr stated in the press release that gun crime remains a pervasive problem in too many communities across the country.
“The Department of Justice is redoubling its commitment to tackling this issue through the launch of Project Guardian,” Barr continued. “Building on the success of past programs like Triggerlock, Project Guardian will strengthen our efforts to reduce gun violence by allowing the federal government and our state and local partners to better target offenders who use guns in crimes and those who try to buy guns illegally.”
For more information about Project Guardian, visit www.justice.gov/ag/page/file/1217186/download.