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Former Bolivar County Bail Bondsman sentenced for illegal gun trafficking

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A former bail bondsman from Boyle, Mississippi was sentenced to more than ten years in federal prison on Wednesday in the United States District Court in Greenville for knowingly selling firearms to a convicted felon.

68-year-old Joe Crawford was convicted in June by a jury in Oxford, Mississippi for knowingly selling multiple firearms to a convicted felon on two separate occasions.  At least one of the firearms sold by Crawford was stolen. On Wednesday, September 15, 2021, Chief District Court Judge Debra M. Brown sentenced Crawford to 121 months in prison for selling the firearms to a convicted felon.

According to court documents and testimony presented at trial, law enforcement began investigating an increase in firearms related violence in the Cleveland, Mississippi area in 2018. FBI and ATF began working with local investigators to identify the individuals responsible for shootings in the area and to identify individuals supplying the shooters with the guns. During the investigation, agents identified Joe Crawford as an individual who supplied firearms to felons. Upon identifying Crawford as a potential source of illegal firearms, law enforcement utilized a confidential informant (CI) to conduct controlled purchases of firearms from Crawford.

During the ensuing investigation, the CI purchased a total of ten firearms from Crawford on two occasions in transactions that were recorded on video and audio.  On each of the two occasions that the CI purchased guns from Crawford, the CI repeatedly told Crawford that he was a convicted felon. Among the firearms sold by Crawford were multiple semi-automatic rifles that included 20 and 30 round magazines, a “bump stock” which is a device that can be attached to a firearm to cause it to fire in rapid succession, and several pistols.

After the controlled buys, agents executed a federal search warrant at Crawford’s home. During the search, 379 firearms were found and examined, and approximately fifty firearms were seized. Two of the firearms were stolen, and another two firearms had obliterated serial numbers.

At the time of the illegal gun sales, Crawford owned and operated a bail bonding company in Bolivar County, Mississippi. Evidence presented at trial established that Crawford often met his future firearm customers through the bail bondsman business.

“The illegal sale of firearms often puts guns directly in the hands of criminals and others who are prohibited by law from legally possessing firearms,” noted Acting U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner. “We will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to aggressively prosecute those individuals who choose to fuel violent crime by trafficking firearms.”

“As we continue to combat violent crime with our law enforcement partners, it is imperative that we identify and disrupt the actors who illegally supply firearms for use in the commission of violent offenses against the public,” said Jermicha Fomby, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Jackson.

The FBI Jackson Field Office’s Oxford Resident Agency investigated the case with assistance from the Cleveland Police Department and ATF. The investigation resulted in the prosecution and conviction of 18 defendants.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sam Stringfellow and Philip Levy prosecuted the case.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime.  Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.  As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

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