CINCINNATI – Federal agents arrested nine individuals for crimes relating to a conspiracy to buy firearms online and have them shipped to Cincinnati-area federal firearms licensees (FFLs). It is alleged that more than 70 firearms were bought with stolen credit card information and picked up, or attempted to be picked up, at local FFLs via straw purchases that hid the identity of the true buyer. Several of the defendants are also charged with COVID-relief crimes totaling more than $120,000 in alleged loss.
A total of 10 defendants were charged in two related indictments returned on April 12. The indictments were unsealed on April 21.
One defendant, Roderico Allen, 26, of Cincinnati, remains a fugitive. Law enforcement authorities ask anyone with information related to Allen’s whereabouts to call the ATF at 513-684-3354.
“These cases allege conspiracies that endangered our communities through straw firearms purchases,and several defendants are also alleged to have exploited pandemic relief,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will not waver in our determination to prosecute those who illegally purchase firearms and those who defrauded relief programs meant to help struggling Americans during the pandemic. Straw purchasers are as much a part of the problem of violence we are seeing on our streets as those who pull the trigger.”
In one indictment, six individuals are charged with conspiring to make false statements during the purchase of a firearm from an FFL.
According to the indictment, from April 2022 through at least July 2022, the six conspired to make false statements to an FFL about the identity of the true buyer of the firearms, including on ATF Form 4473, which a buyer must fill out when purchasing a firearm.
Members of the conspiracy allegedly used stolen credit card information to buy firearms online from out-of-state FFLs, including Guns.com. The firearms were then shipped to Cincinnati-area FFLs for pickup. Members of the conspiracy allegedly bought the firearms in the names of other members of the conspiracy, who then falsely represented to local FFLs that they were the true buyers of the firearms and were not obtaining the firearms for anyone else.
It is alleged that the conspirators had 60 firearms shipped to the Southern District of Ohio and succeeded in obtaining at least 38 of those firearms.
The 23-count indictment charges:
City of Residence
Jerin Johnson, Sr.
Zephaniah Jones is also charged with three counts of unauthorized use of an access device and three counts of aggravated identity theft relating to his alleged use of stolen credit card numbers to buy firearms.
Four defendants – Zephaniah Jones, Nehemiah Jones, Mykia Melton and Jerin Johnson, Sr. – are also accused of fraudulently obtaining a total of five Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans during the COVID-19 pandemic:
It is alleged that Zephaniah Jones fraudulently applied for and obtained more than $20,000 in PPP loans. Zephaniah Jones allegedly falsely stated he was the sole owner of Jones Lawncare LLC, a business he allegedly falsely claimed was in operation in February 2020 and had $99,000 in gross income in 2020.
Co-defendant Nehemiah Jones allegedly obtained two fraudulent PPP loans by falsely claiming to own a business called “massage on air” and falsely representing that the business earned $98,000 in gross income in 2020. Nehemiah Jones received two PPP loans totaling more than $40,000.
Mykia Melton allegedly received nearly $21,000 in PPP loans by falsely claiming she owned a clothing and accessories wholesaler called “Kia’s Drip.” It is alleged she falsely claimed the business had $100,000 in gross income in 2020.
Jerin Johnson, Sr. allegedly falsely claimed his handyman and contracting business grossed nearly $98,000 in income in 2020. He allegedly received a $20,000 PPP loan.
Allen et al.
The four defendants included in the second indictment are also charged with conspiring to make false statements during the purchase of a firearm from an FFL.
According to that indictment, from May 2022 through at least June 2022, the four defendants engaged in a conspiracy using the same fraud scheme as the Jones defendants. These defendants allegedly caused 14 firearms to be shipped to the Southern District of Ohio and obtained nine of them.
The individuals charged in this 10-count indictment include:
City of Residence
Roderico Allen is also charged with aggravated identity theft and unauthorized use of an access device relating to his alleged use of a stolen credit card number in May 2022.
Jaidah Jones is also charged with PPP fraud. She allegedly received approximately $20,000 after falsely claiming to own a shoe store, stating the shoe store earned $200,000 in gross income in 2020.
Conspiring to make false statements during the purchase of a firearm is a crime punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, and making such false statements is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Unauthorized use of an access device is a crime punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. A conviction for aggravated identity theft requires a mandatory two-year prison term in addition to any other sentences imposed. Making false statements to an agency of the United States is punishable by up to five years in prison.