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Kent man sentenced for illegally selling gun used in Illinois murder
A Kent man received a one-year prison sentence Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle for illegally selling a gun later used in a Chicago-area murder.
Benedict C. Ladera, 31, also received three years of supervised release for the illegal transfer of a firearm to a non-state resident, said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan in a media release.
A grand jury indicted Ladera in February. He pleaded not guilty in March.
Ladera, who is not a licensed gun dealer, knowingly sold a .40-caliber handgun to Demetry Smirnov, a Canadian citizen. Smirnov later used the gun in the murder of 36-year-old Jitka Vesel, an Oak Brook, Ill., woman he had briefly dated a few years earlier.
U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik said at the sentencing that Ladera's act of selling a gun via the Internet, to someone he knew nothing about, was reckless at best.
“Guns are killing people all over our country every day," Lasnik said. "We cannot afford to lose the people we are losing (to gun violence).”
Durkan said Smirnov had the gun because of Ladera.
“By purposely violating the law, the defendant put this gun in the hands of a murderer,” Durkan said. “We will continue to prosecute both those that commit violent gun crimes, and those who illegally provide them the gun.”
According to court documents, Ladera advertised the gun for sale on the website armslist.com and sold the gun to Smirnov outside a Federal Way casino in early April 2011. Ladera knew Smirnov was not a state resident when he sold the gun – in fact he accepted an extra $200 for the gun knowing Smirnov was Canadian.
On the evening of April 13, 2011, Smirnov used the gun to murder Vesel in Illinois as she left a museum where she volunteered. Smirnov confessed to the killing to police. In July 2011, Smirnov pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, accepting a prison term of life behind bars.
Ladera had no knowledge of Smirnov’s plan to stalk and murder Vesel. However, Ladera was so disturbed by Smirnov, that he did not sell him ammunition. Smirnov had a transient purchase the ammunition for him in Spokane.
In asking for a 14-month sentence, prosecutors wrote to the court that, “In the end, this case is about Ladera’s decision to ignore the basic requirements related to the firearm sales. The sale of firearms to out-of-state residents and foreign nationals is restricted precisely because such sales allow individuals like Smirnov to more easily avoid background and registration checks when purchasing a gun…. firearms, as this case so tragically proves, are deadly weapons and there are certain basic requirements imposed on the sale of such weapons.”
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and the Oak Brook Police Department.