AG Shapiro Arrests Two In Lehigh County For Straw Purchasing 29 Guns, Seizes Ghost Gun

May 7, 2021 | Topic: Criminal

HARRISBURG—Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced the arrest of two Lehigh County men for their roles in the illegal straw purchases of 29 firearms. This was a joint investigation by the Office of Attorney General’s Gun Violence Section, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Emmaus Police Department. 

“Purchasing a gun for someone who isn’t legally able to carry one is a crime that leads to shootings and murders. People need to know — we follow up on these guns and we hold straw purchasers accountable across Pennsylvania,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Ghost guns, like the one found by investigators executing a search warrant, are quickly becoming the weapon of choice for criminals that take the lives of too many Pennsylvanians. Our Gun Violence Section is working overtime with our federal law enforcement partners to get these untraceable weapons off the street and out of our communities.”

James Gleason, 38, and Reynold Lewis, 37, were arrested earlier this week after agents from the Office of Attorney General and ATF concluded an investigation into the illegal purchase of dozens of firearms. Agents learned that Gleason was instructed by Lewis to make straw purchases of firearms to pay back debt related to Gleason’s methamphetamine use. Gleason is alleged to have facilitated the 29 illegal purchases of firearms through a straw purchaser from at least seven different firearms dealers in four months. 

“The investigation of individuals who unlawfully purchase firearms will always be at the forefront of ATF’s mission,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “Anyone who knowingly puts a firearm into the hands of a felon shows blatant disregard for the law and jeopardizes the safety of our communities. ATF and our local, state and federal partners are committed to stopping the flow of guns to convicted felons or other prohibited individuals who cannot legally possess them.”

“I commend the Office of Attorney General, ATF and the Emmaus Police Department for their work in this successful investigation,” said Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin.

On May 3, agents executed a search warrant on Lewis’s hotel room and vehicle, recovering one handgun, ammunition, firearm parts, and accessories, including an 80 percent receiver kit used to assemble a ghost gun, and various suspected narcotics including methamphetamine, crack cocaine, and oxycodone pills.

Ghost guns typically start as “80% receivers,” which can be quickly assembled, lack serial numbers so they cannot be traced, and, once fully assembled, can operate as fully functioning firearms.

Gleason faces charges of 29 counts of Illegal Transfer of Firearms. Lewis faces 29 counts of Illegal Transfer of Firearms, 29 counts of Unsworn Falsification to Authorities, 29 counts of Tampering With Public Records, 29 counts of Person Not To Possess Firearms, 29 counts of Dealing in Unlawful Proceeds, 30 counts of Firearms Possessed by a Prohibited Person, 29 counts of Corrupt Organizations, one count of Person Not To Possess Firearms, and one count of Possession with Intent to Deliver. All charges are accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. This case is being prosecuted by Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office.

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