A Bridgeport man has pleaded guilty to stealing 111 firearms from a gun manufacturing plant while working as a delivery truck driver.
Elliot Perez, 28, of Bridgeport, pleaded guilty Feb. 11 to one count of conspiracy to possess and sell stolen firearms, one count of possession of firearms by a convicted felon, and one count of making a false statement to a federal law enforcement officer. Perez faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
Guns out ‘into the hands of criminals’
“This defendant is responsible for stealing over 100 illegal firearms and putting some of them directly into the hands of criminals,” said Deirdre M. Daly, U.S. attorney for Connecticut. “These guns are turning up in criminal investigations as far away as North Carolina, and one was used in a recent shooting at a Hartford night club.”
Daly noted that two convicted felons were allegedly found in possession of stolen Smith & Wesson firearms from the theft, and are being prosecuted by her office. More than 50 of the stolen firearms still have not been recovered.
Allegedly too extra boxes of guns
According to court documents and statements made in court, on Nov. 8, 2012, Perez, a truck driver for Pace Motor Lines, picked up five boxes of firearms from the Smith & Wesson manufacturing plant in Springfield and placed the boxes in his truck.
At the same time, Perez allegedly stole three additional boxes containing a total of 111 firearms. Perez then drove the truck containing all the firearms to his residence in Bridgeport to meet his cohort, Michael Murphy, 25, also of Bridgeport, prosecutors said.
Shortly thereafter, Perez delivered the original five boxes of firearms to the trucking company’s distribution center in Stratford.
Perez and Murphy stored and ultimately sold many of the stolen guns, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Told false story to ATF agents
Federal officials said on Nov. 20, 2012, when interviewed by ATF special agents, Perez falsely stated that a “black male” at Smith & Wesson’s manufacturing plant told Perez which boxes he was supposed to load onto his truck, and that he delivered all of the firearms he picked up to the distribution center in Stratford.
Prior to November 2012, Perez had multiple felony convictions, including convictions for larceny and burglary, and Murphy had a felony conviction for burglary.
It is a violation of federal law for a person previously convicted of a felony offense to possess a firearm or ammunition that has moved in interstate or foreign commerce.
Stratford P.D. made original arrest
Perez and Murphy were originally arrested by the Stratford Police Department on state firearms charges. Perez has been in custody since his state arrest on Nov. 23, 2012, and Murphy has been in custody since his federal arrest on Nov. 30, 2012.
Perez is scheduled to be sentenced May 7 by U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Bridgeport federal court. He faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
On Dec. 12, 2013, Murphy pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess and sell stolen firearms and one count of possession of firearms by a convicted felon. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 21 and faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years.
Law enforcement priority: Illegal firearms
According to Daniel J. Kumor, special agent in charge of the ATF Boston Field Division, “Stopping the illegal flow of firearms continues to be one of ATF’s top priorities This ongoing investigation is another example of what happens when law enforcement works together to make communities safer.”
Daly said keeping illegal guns off the streets is a stop priority for her office. “We will continue to prioritize these cases and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” she said.
The Perez/Murphy matter is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Stratford Police Department, and the Bridgeport Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Asst. U.S. Attorney Rahul Kale.