Case Against Venango County Man Accused of Making Machine Guns Moves Forward
Court documents indicate 60-year-old Theodore D. Brown, of Canal Township, entered a plea of not guilty in front of U.S. District Magistrate Richard Lanzillo on Wednesday, April 10, on the following charges:
– Possession of an Unregistered Firearm, Felony
– Possession of a Machine Gun, Felony
A formal indictment by a federal grand jury on the charges was filed on Tuesday, April 9. A conviction on the charges could mean up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
Brown currently remains free on $10,000 unsecured bond.
No trial date has been set, but Brown’s defense attorney, Stephen Sebald of Erie, has until May 28 to file any pretrial motions with the court.
Details of the case:
According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Erie, on January 16, 2019, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives commenced an investigation into the unlawful manufacturing, possession, and distribution of fully automatic firearms by Canal Township resident Theodore Brown.
Brown was allegedly manufacturing auto-sears and “AR” style weapons, converting and manufacturing the weapons to function as fully automatic firearms and distributing them.
The complaint notes that based on his training, knowledge, and experience, the agent was familiar with auto sears, known by various trade names including “AR15 Auto Sear” “Drop In Auto Sear” and “Auto Sear II”, which are a combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting a weapon to shoot automatically more than one shot, without manually reloading by a single function of the trigger. As such, these items and their constituent parts in and of themselves are considered to be machine guns and are subject to the serialization and recording regulations of the NFA.
An ATF Special Agent acting in an undercover capacity established contact with Brown to investigate whether Brown was manufacturing possession and distributing machine guns.
According to the complaint, around 8:50 p.m. on February 7, 2019, the undercover agent received a phone call from a phone number he knew from prior investigation was from Theodore Brown. The agent answered and recorded the call, and after brief small-talk, Brown inquired if the agent was interested in obtaining one of the “toys,” a term used by Brown referring to machine guns, that Brown believed the agent had shot before. Brown and the agent then arranged to meet in person at Brown’s residence.
On Tuesday, February 12, 2019, the agent met with Brown at his residence on Long Road in Cochranton. The purpose of the meeting was for the agent to provide a down payment of $1,600.00 in US currency to Brown for the manufacture of two complete machine guns.
The complaint notes that during the meeting, the agent provided Brown with the down payment of $1,600.00 ($800.00 per firearm) in a white envelope. Brown asked the agent if he would like a receipt to which the agent replied no. The agent then stated that he does not want a paper trail and liked paying cash in person. Brown agreed and indicated that he does not keep any of his “guns” here (at residence) in case anybody “comes in”. Brown then indicated towards the drop-in auto sears on his table and stated: “this here will get me busted.” Brown then continued to show the agent how he puts the drop-in auto sear together. Brown stated that he makes all of the pieces of the drop-in auto sear himself except the springs.
On March 15, 2019, the agent received a text message from Brown (from the same number noted previously) stating “Hey bud, got the parts. Put’n them together as we speak. Should b ready for pick up sunday.” Brown then texted “1250.00” and the agent asked “Ok, and that covers both toys?” to which Brown responded “Got one done the other will b done in a couple hours” and “Yep both Got a deal on parts.”
According to the complaint, on March 22, 2019, the agent traveled to Brown’s residence on Long Road to meet with Brown, pay the remaining balance owed for the machine guns, and pick up said machine guns. The agent arrived at Brow’s residence at approx 12:30 p.m. and was greeted by Brown. Brown and the agent then went inside Brown’s garage where he showed the agent the two completed firearms.
Brown and the agent spoke briefly before taking the machine guns outside so the agent could “test fire” the two guns and make sure they were working up to the specifications promised by Brown. According to the complaint, the first gun successfully fired fully automatic, while the second fun initially jammed during the test fire. At that time, Brown and the agent returned to the garage where Brown worked on the second gun for approximately one hour. During that time, Brown fitted the second machine gun with a different auto-sear. Once it was completed, the agent took the second machine gun outside and the gun functioned in a fully automatic fashion.
The agent then paid Brown $1260.00 cash, the remaining balance owed to Brown for manufacturing the machine guns, and loaded both fully automatic machine guns into a duffel bag in the back seat of his vehicle before exiting Brown’s property.
The complaint notes that a query of the Federal Licensing System (FLS) revealed that Brown has never held a license (Federal Firearms License or FFL) to sell firearms in the state of Pennsylvania. A further query of the National Firearms Registry and Transfer Record revealed that Brown does not own or possess any registered National Firearms Act (NFA) regulated weapons, nor does he belong to a Trust where such weapons would be included.
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