Kent man pleads guilty to selling guns to those with criminal histories

Sold more than 100 firearms to those barred from possessing guns

Courtesy image, U.S. Department of Justice

Courtesy image, U.S. Department of Justice

A 31-year-old Kent man pleaded guilty to multiple firearms offenses for his purchase of more than 100 guns in a straw purchaser scheme.

Dion Jamar Cooper entered the plea last week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, according to a Feb. 20 press release from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Cooper pleaded guilty to two counts of making a false statement in connection with the acquisition of firearms, one count of straw purchasing firearms and one count of trafficking in firearms.

Purchasing a gun for someone who is prohibited by law from possessing one, or for someone who does not want his or her name associated with the transaction, is a straw purchase, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).

“Mr. Cooper lied on purchase forms and then trafficked more than 100 firearms on the streets of our community,” U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman said. “He trafficked to those who are prohibited from possessing guns, because of their criminal history. It is not surprising that more than two dozen of the firearms have been linked to crimes (in the Seattle area). Congress has responded to the epidemic of gun violence with new laws targeting such ‘straw purchasing’ and we are using them in this case.”

U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez scheduled sentencing for May 17. Straw purchasing of firearms and trafficking in firearms are both punishable by up to 15 years in prison, according to the DOJ. Making a false statement in connection with a firearms acquisition is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Cooper was arrested in April 2023 following an investigation by Seattle Police and the ATF.

According to the criminal complaint, the investigation began in January 2023, with the assault and attempted robbery of a woman in Rainier Valley in Seattle. The victim was able to flee in her car. Police found a firearm in her vehicle that had been dropped by one of the assailants.

A check of the firearm revealed it had been purchased by Cooper on Dec. 10, 2022. That recovery led the ATF to check Cooper’s purchase history. Cooper had purchased 107 firearms since June 2021. On 24 different instances he purchased multiple firearms - sometimes four or more. Of the 107 firearms identified as being purchased in this scheme, 26 of the guns have been recovered and linked to crimes.

During March and April 2023, agents surveilled Cooper as he made arrangements to purchase additional firearms. Agents identified De’ondre Lamontia Phillips, of Federal Way, as the person who drove Cooper to the gun shops where he purchased the firearms.

Phillips is prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms due to convictions for distribution of heroin (2014) and convictions for illegal firearms possession and two counts of assault (2009). Surveillance of the two revealed Cooper turning the firearms over to Phillips who stored them in his residence.

Phillips pleaded guilty in January to drug and gun possession crimes. He is scheduled for sentencing April 26.

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