BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, Will Thompson, announced several indictments regarding a conspiracy to traffic over 130 guns between Beckley and Philadelphia. At a press conference Thursday, March 3, 2022, Thompson said the government has confiscated 30 of those guns but 100 of them are still yet to be found.
“They have been connected to at least two homicides, crimes of domestic violence and other violent crimes,” Thompson said.
13 people are charged in this investigation, nine of them from Raleigh and Fayette counties. The 19-count indictment alleges straw purchasers bought over 130 guns in or near Beckley for the three main defendants: Derrick Woodard, Bisheeme Jones, and Shyheem Woodard-Smith. Then, they allegedly delivered them to others or transferred them to Philadelphia. The charges vary based on involvement in the scheme.
“Anything from felony possession is up to ten years in federal prison, there are a variety of other charges that carry five years, a lot of that depends on the conduct that was involved, the number of firearms that were recovered and the criminal history of the people we are dealing with,” Shawn Morrow, Special Agent in Charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said.
The Bureau for ATF used a tracing center to find people responsible for trafficking these guns after they were used to commit crimes. He said they are collaborating with local gun dealers to locate the remaining 100 firearms.
Thompson said the widespread involvement in the region is evidence that small communities are fueling rising crime rates in some of the country’s larger cities. The investigation covers these straw purchases from June 2020 to July 2021.
Morrow said stopping illegal straw purchasing operations is crucial to preventing violent crime.
“They make their way into hands of criminals, or gang members, or individuals who would use them to commit violent crime,” Morrow said.
The investigation is ongoing.