UPDATED at 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, July 10 —
"All four defendants appeared [in court on July 10] and were advised of their rights and of the charges against them," said Emily Langley, of the U.S. Attorneys Office. "Three decided to proceed to arraignment and entered their pleas. In this case, all three pleaded not guilty. The fourth, Ms. Chancey, decided to wait until her detention hearing tomorrow to enter a plea."
A trial has been set for Sept. 16 in front of Judge Robart.
SEATTLE — Four members of a gun trafficking conspiracy based in Snohomish County are under arrest after being indicted by the grand jury for illegally selling more than 50 firearms to an undercover investigator, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.
Heather Chancey, also known as Heather Lee Slater, 34, of Marysville, is charged in 14 counts of a 20 count indictment for gun and drug crimes. Mark Jenkins, 53, of Marysville, is charged in four counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and James Michaels, 37, of Marysville and Curtis Van Putten, 43, of Marysville are each charged in one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The four were arrested this morning and will make their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 10.
"These defendants, convicted felons, were selling dozens of high powered firearms with no sales record and no concern about where these guns would end up," said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. "Our region has seen too much heartache come out of the end of guns. Law enforcement will continue to work together to stop the illegal flow of guns into our communities."
According to the indictment, on multiple occasions between October 2012 and January 2013, Heather Chancey and her co-conspirators sold guns to an undercover law enforcement agent. Most of the sales occurred in the parking lot of the Tulalip Resort Casino. Some of the sales occurred in other parking lots of businesses in Marysville or Arlington, or at a Marysville residence.
Chancey was prohibited from possessing firearms because of a 2001 conviction for methamphetamine possession. Some of the guns she possessed and sold in this case include: two sawed off shotguns and 13 regular shotguns — some with no visible serial numbers; 21 rifles – some with obliterated serial numbers; and four handguns.
Chancey is also charged with distribution of methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Jenkins, who has a prior felony conviction in Oregon, is charged with illegally possessing five rifles and two handguns. Michaels has a 2000 drug possession conviction, and is accused of illegally possessing a rifle. Van Putten has prior convictions for drug possession and possession of stolen property and is alleged to have illegally possessed three rifles.
"Ms. Chancey blatantly disregarded the safety of her community by distributing dangerous items indiscriminately," said Special Agent-in-Charge Laura M. Laughlin of the FBI Seattle office. "Further, she often did so in broad daylight, in areas where we all live and play with our families. The FBI welcomed the opportunity to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt this brazen activity."
"Our communities are safer when you take illegal weapons and drugs off the street. A potentially dangerous and harmful element has been removed from Snohomish County as a result of this collaborative investigation between federal, state and local agencies," said Snohomish Regional Gang and Drug Task Force Commander Pat Slack.
"Working together, law enforcement cracked a crime ring that was trafficking handguns, rifles and weapons that could be altered for fully automatic firing," said Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel. "I can say with confidence that Seattle is safer with these weapons and their dealers off the streets."
Conspiracy to unlawfully deal in firearms and illegal distribution of firearms are punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to five years and a $250,000 fine. Being a felon in possession of a firearm is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine is punishable by a mandatory sentence of five years in prison, and up to 40 years in prison. Possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime is punishable by a mandatory additional consecutive sentence of five years in prison.
The charges contained in the indictment are allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This investigation was conducted by the Snohomish Regional Gang and Drug Task Force, the Seattle Police Department and the FBI. During the investigation, those agencies were assisted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Snohomish County Violent Offender Task Force and the United States Marshal's Violent Offender Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kate Crisham.