BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of WV Will Thompson was joined by Special Agent in Charge Shawn Morrow of the ATF and other law enforcement officials for a press conference to announce indictments in a federal gun trafficking investigation.
A federal indictment consisting of 19 charges against 13 different people was returned. The case involved the conspiracy to traffic more than 130 guns from Southern West Virginia to Philadelphia, PA. According to Thompson, suspects from Philadelphia recruited people in Southern WV to make straw purchases of guns from shops around the region. Straw purchasing is when someone legally buys a gun without revealing the true identity of the final purchaser, who otherwise could not buy a gun legally.
US Attorney said more than 30 guns have been recovered in the Philadelphia area, two of which were linked to separate homicide in the Philadelphia area.
“The gun trafficking pipeline through which these defendants were supplying crime guns to Philadelphia has been shut down as a result of this investigation,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “We will continue to work with ATF and our state and local law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute gun traffickers and straw purchasers that put guns in the wrong hands and fuel violence in our cities.”
Below are names provided by Thompson receiving charges related to the investigation:
- Bisheem Jones, Philadelphia, PA
- Derrick Woodard, Philadelphia, PA
- Shyheem Wodward-Smith, Philadelphia, PA
- Hassan Abdula, Philadelphia, PA
- Denise Johnson, Beckley, WV
- Shakyrah Ross, Beckley, WV
- Arileah Lacy, Beckley, WV
- Tyana Bly, Beckley WV
- Stephanie Cohernour, Fayetteville, WV
- Maurice Johnson, Mt. Hope, WV
- Terry Lawhorn, Oak Hill, WV
- Lakeshia Nicole-Simon, Beckley, WV
- Dante Webster, Beckley, WV
According to the indictment, from June 2020 to July 2021, Jones, Woodard, Woodard-Smith, and Abdullah recruited individuals to straw purchase firearms on their behalf.
Bly, Cohernour, Maurice Johnson, Lacy, Lawhorn, Simon and Webster are charged with providing false information during the acquisition of firearms at various gun stores in the Beckley area. They allegedly made false statements on ATF Form 4473 certifying that they were the buyers of the guns when they knew they were actually purchasing the guns for other people.
US Attorney Thompson thanked the Beckley Police Department, Oak Hill Police Department, Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, and the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office for their help throughout the investigation.
The press conference ended on an important reminder from US Attorney Thompson.
“Don’t do favors for people that you know are illegal.”
The investigation spanned from June 2020 to July 2021. The investigation remains active. Additional charges could be filed against additional suspects.
Stick with 59News for updates on the investigation!