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Undercover firearms investigation in Renton leads to long federal prison terms

Two men were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in U.S. District Court in Seattle Friday for conspiracy to unlawfully deal in firearms and being felons in possession of firearms in a case that began as an undercover operation in Renton, according to a federal press release.

The prison terms were announced by U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.

Andre M. Conerly, 26, and Daunte R. Williams, 29, conspired to sell 23 firearms, many of them stolen, to a person working with law enforcement, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. Both men have significant criminal history and were prohibited from possessing firearms. Conerly was sentenced to 96 months in prison and Williams was sentenced to 78 months in prison.

At the sentencing U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones said the defendants were involved in the sale of “extremely dangerous weapons, weapons designed to kill and kill a lot of people," according to the press release.

According to records filed in the case, in January the Seattle Police Department Gang Unit, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) began an undercover investigation of a group of men selling guns in the Renton area, according to the press release.

Conerly was the principal actor in this group, according to the press release, making frequent contact with the buyer, coordinating the firearms transactions for himself and a number of his co-defendants.

In January and February Conerly and others in his group sold the person working with law enforcement a variety of firearms including an assault rifle, a sawed off shotgun, a semi-automatic pistol, and a high powered rifle with a silencer.

Some of the weapons were stolen, and one was used in a shooting just days before it was sold to the buyer, according to the release.  Conerly and Williams thought the buyer was trafficking the guns to drug gangs in Mexico.

In their request for a significant sentence, prosecutors noted the increase in gun violence in the Seattle area.

“The drastic rise in murders and shootings in our city is directly attributable to the proliferation of the illegal possession of firearms.  Those who possess and sell such firearms illegally bear some of the responsibility for the increase in violence.  Moreover, the illegal sale of firearms only serves to flood the area with weapons that are difficult, if not impossible, to accurately track.  Given the dangerousness that these weapons present, and the very real possibility that weapons sold illegally could subsequently be used in other crimes, trafficking in firearms presents unique risks,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

The case was investigated by the Seattle Police Department Gang Unit, the FBI and ATF.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nicholas Brown.

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