How an engineer and a crack dealer came together to sell guns without a license

But together, according to court documents, Leonard J. Laraway and Bobby Perkins, Jr. created a pipeline of illegal weapons ranging from the suburbs of Virginia to cities in the mid-Atlantic region.

Dozens of weapons linked to men have been recovered by the police in recent years, most of them in Washington, DC, according to documents filed in the US District Court. UU In Virginia. The weapons sold by Perkins have been "tied to three different homicides," including the murder of their own cousin, federal prosecutors allege.

Other weapons were recovered from a suspected cocaine trafficker, along with a bulletproof vest; of a suspect in car theft accused of committing two armed robberies in a single night; and from the glove compartment of a car, just out of reach of a man who rushed at him while fighting with the police, according to a CNN review of court records, police reports and interviews.

Invisible is the persistent trauma more than three years later for store manager Veronica Bermúdez, who was two months pregnant on the day of the theft and remains so fearful that she is not willing to work outside of her home.

"To this day, this is a nightmare for me," Bermudez told CNN. "I feel totally insecure, I will live with that for the rest of my life."

The prosecutions of Laraway and Perkins offer a glimpse into the world of unlicensed arms trafficking, a common source of weapons used by criminals, officials say, but which is frustratingly difficult to control. Unlicensed dealers sell weapons without conducting background checks on potential buyers, which makes them a source of access for people who can not pbad those checks. The unquestioned nature of such sales can make the future path of the weapon difficult to predict.

Police convicted of illegal arms trafficking sold weapons used in the murder

Like many unlicensed distributors, Laraway seemed an unlikely suspect when he was subjected to scrutiny by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, better known as ATF.

He earned a six-figure salary as an engineer in the Defense Contract Management Agency and was pursuing a second master's degree at the prestigious Naval War College in the United States.

He also had a thriving business as a seller of weapons on the black market, according to the authorities.

Laraway bought weapons from authorized stores, took pictures of them and then posted them on gun sale websites with a brief description and an inflated price.

He told the authorities that he would receive phone calls from potential buyers and then meet with them in person to make a private sale in cash, without official documentation.

He sold dozens of weapons this way before finding his most reliable client: Perkins, a young ex-Marine who would later admit to the court that he was handling a drug trafficking conspiracy in an apartment complex across the street from a primary school .

Perkins sold marijuana, crack cocaine powder and heroin. He was known by his clients and badociates as "The Plug", a jargon for an important source of medicines. Perkins was always armed, often with more than one gun at a time, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum in which they also mentioned his renowned slogan about always being ready to shoot.

How background checks on the gun work

Laraway and Perkins met for the first time after Perkins responded to an online advertisement that Laraway posted for a Glock pistol.

It was the beginning of a commercial relationship in which he would sell Perkins an estimated 200 weapons in a span of a few months in 2015, according to court documents.

They met in person about two dozen times and, finally, Laraway began to "face" Perkins' weapons in anticipation of future payment. To facilitate this agreement, Laraway provided Perkins with his current account number. Within a few weeks in July and August 2015, Perkins made eight deposits to the Laraway account for a total of $ 37,000.

Laraway would later tell the federal agents that Perkins was only interested in buying pistols and that he always paid in cash. He also said he knew that Perkins was reselling the weapons.

Until last March, ATF agents had tracked down about 130 weapons recovered by the police, of which it was discovered that Laraway was the original buyer, according to an affidavit from Special Agent Ashleigh C. Hall. According to the affidavit, Laraway said he sold approximately 106 of those weapons to Perkins before they were recovered by the police.

In the summer of 2015, federal authorities observed that Laraway had purchased more than 300 weapons in less than two years and opened an investigation. Laraway was charged in February 2016 for selling more than 400 firearms without a license. He pleaded guilty two months later and began cooperating against Perkins in exchange for what he hoped was a lighter sentence than he could get.

Laraway's wife, Yali Yin, wrote to the judge at that time in search of leniency for the "mistake of her husband".

Laraway's defense attorney observed the "highly decorated career of his client in the United States of America" ​​and his genuine remorse for his conduct.

"Since his arrest, Mr. Laraway has done everything possible to solve his crime," the lawyer wrote.

Laraway was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and continued cooperating against Perkins.

Liars in the form of weapons can go to commit crimes with firearms, suggests an internal investigation of the ATF

It would be almost two years before Perkins was charged with drug trafficking and selling guns without a license.

According to prosecutors, Perkins sold more than 200 handguns, "even to people he knew were convicted criminals."

"The magnitude of Perkins' march is hard to exaggerate," Asst wrote. United States Atty. Alexander E. Blanchard.

And the number of weapons recovered continued to rise, Blanchard said at the Perkins sentencing hearing in August. He told the judge that he had still recovered another weapon in a search executed just a day earlier, according to a transcript of the procedure.

In the court documents filed by his defense attorney, Perkins was described as a "loving and hardworking husband and father" who overcame his high school expulsion to get his GED, join the marines and become an expert electrician.

"Bobby is a good man …" wrote his mother, a reverend, in a letter to the judge. "He made some mistakes, but still he would work very hard to take care of his family."

Perkins spoke briefly at his sentencing hearing. He told the judge that he accepted responsibility for the mistakes he made, but denied being a violent person.

"I'm not a violent person," Perkins said. "I do not like to deal with violence."

The judge, T.S. Ellis III challenged that claim before imposing his sentence. He pointed out the more than 200 weapons he had sold and the fact that some "recovered in the possession of criminals and were used in other crimes."

"Maybe you did not shoot someone and maybe you did not attack someone, but you were clearly surrounded by instruments of violence," Ellis said. It is important, added the judge, "that any sentence imposed on him must be a beacon, a warning so that others do not get involved in this behavior."

With that, he sentenced Perkins to 12 years in federal prison.

Why even the existing gun laws are not always enforced?

Laraway has fulfilled his time and is already out.

In an interview with CNN, Laraway's attorney, Edwin Brooks, said Laraway began selling arms because he was not making enough money to maintain his upper-middle-clbad lifestyle. "Like everyone else," Brooks said, "there's a lot of debt: loans, credit cards, it was basically a financial issue."

Although Laraway is no longer behind bars, Brooks said there is lasting damage due to his conviction, including the loss of government security clearance that prevents him from working in the field he chose. As of last fall, he was the manager of a service station.

"The collateral consequences have been devastating," Brooks said.

Brooks said Laraway was surprised by the result of selling weapons to Perkins.

"There is no way I can foresee that this is going to happen," said the lawyer.

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