Former police chiefs, FFL dealers, federally indicted for alleged machine gun conspiracy

Former top cops arrested by is licensed under PD
BALTIMORE, MD – According to a Department of Justice press release, former police chiefs out of North Carolina and North Dakota, as well as three federal firearms licensed dealers, were indicted earlier in October over an alleged plot to illegally obtain fully automatic weapons under the guise of acquiring them for official law enforcement purposes.

Not to be mistaken with the indictment announced this past April for similar alleged offenses brought against Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins – which was also brought forth by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Erek L. Barron – this latest indictment from Barron’s office is taking aim at former police chiefs and their alleged co-conspirators.

The general theory behind the allegations brought forth by prosecutors rests heavily on purported abuse of what are known as “law letters,” which are requests from “governmental entities expressing a need for a particular model or interest in seeing a demonstration of a particular machinegun” that was manufactured after 1986 in accordance with the National Firearms Act.

It's fairly common knowledge that various state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies have on-hand fully automatic weapons that are otherwise unlawful for everyday citizens to possess. In order for such agencies to obtain these sorts of firearms, they need to petition the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), in tandem with an FFL, to request the likes of demonstrations and acquisitions.

Per the indictment, former Coats, North Carolina Police Chief Matthew Hall and former Ray, North Dakota Police Chief James Sawyer allegedly conspired with a handful of FFLs in Maryland, New Mexico, and North Carolina to “falsely” represent to the ATF that the requested “firearms would be used for demonstration” purposes for the Coats Police Department and the Ray Police Department.

The three FFLs indicted in connection with the alleged conspiracy – Sean Sullivan, who is also a former Homeland Security analyst, YouTube personality Larry Allen Vickers, and James Tafoya – were accused of signing off on the law letters while knowing the requested firearms were not going to be used for official law enforcement demonstration purposes.

Prosecutors say the alleged scheme, which apparently transpired between June of 2018 through March of 2021, was carried out so that they defendants could either “resell the machineguns and other firearms for profit or to keep for their own use and enjoyment.”

Former Ray Police Chief Sawyer reportedly submitted 32 law letters requesting the demonstration of over 70 different firearms, whereas former Coats Police Chief Hall submitted 53 law letters requesting the demonstration of over 90 different firearms during the period of the alleged conspiracy.

For the sake of context, Ray, North Dakota is a town of slightly over 700 residents and Coats, North Carolina has a population of roughly 2,000 residents, with neither of the two police departments harboring a heavily armed unit akin to a SWAT team.

Vickers, who runs the very popular YouTube channel Vickers Tactical, already pleaded guilty on October 19th to charges related to the indictment, and is now facing up to 25 years in federal prison for conspiring to illegally import and obtain machineguns and other restricted firearms, and conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against a an arms manufacturer based out of Russia. A sentencing hearing for Vickers has not been scheduled yet as of this writing.

The remaining defendants, Sullivan, Tafoya, Hall, and Sawyer, face up to five years in federal prison per count of the alleged false statements attributed to the submitted law letters, and Sullivan and Tafoya also face additional decades behind bars if convicted for counts related to unlawful importation and unlawful possession of various firearms.
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