The ATF and other police agencies had a round-up last week of people accused of gun crimes.
Two from Marshall County - Gino Moriggi and Blake Sparks - were among the 29 taken into custody.
Sheriff Phil Sims said his department and other police agencies have been turning some of their gun crimes, mostly notably felons in possession of a handgun, in for the federal government to prosecute.
Guntersville Police investigator Mike Turner is now working closely as the county's task force officer with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
In late 2017, Guntersville police announced that Moriggi had allegedly been in possession of a handgun during a drug crime.
Turner said Moriggi believed he had other warrants against him and he fled to Georgia shortly before the ATF round up took place.
"We worked with a local police department in Georgia and we were able to take him into custody," Turner said.
He said Sparks was taken into custody at a residence in Albertville.
The U.S Attorney's office put out this statement about the overall operation:
An effort focused on reducing violent crime in North Alabama resulted in federal charges against 29 defendants, announced U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Marcus Watson.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and ATF joined with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Huntsville Police Department, City of Madison Police Department, Madison County District Attorney’s Office, Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, Marshall County District Attorney’s Office, Guntersville Police Department, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in an intense effort to charge violent offenders and take guns off the streets.
"'Violent crime and violent criminals, especially our worst offenders, continue to be our highest priority for prosecution,' Town said. “It is my judgment that the law abiding public deserves the continued best efforts and partnerships of law enforcement to rid our streets of these violent criminals, these repeat offenders, and these trigger-pullers. Once convicted, these habitual felons will be rewarded with neatly tucked bedding awaiting them in a state or federal penitentiary. Our communities are safer due to the relentless and tireless work of the ATF and so many other of our local, state, and federal partners.”
The majority of the defendants charged are violent offenders. Below are some of the noteworthy investigations:
Roger Johnson: A pipe bomb detonated in the vicinity of a Jackson County Deputy and Johnson’s mother in relation to a civil dispute. Luckily, no injuries were sustained.
Daniel Steele: Agents recovered numerous unregistered machine guns, to include a Colt belt-fed .50 caliber machine gun, smoke grenades and templates for Glock conversion devices from Steele. Steele had no prior criminal history and was not on anyone’s radar.
Barry Williams, Melvin Rolin, Marcus Kyle and Britney Black: Members of the Froggy Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO). In an interview with ATF, Rolin stated he was responsible for distributing at least 200 kilograms of methamphetamine in North Alabama within a two-year period, as the head of the DTO. Numerous firearms were recovered from the DTO, to include a converted AK-47 machine gun that ATF seized in Tennessee.
Victor Ortiz-Castillo: Illegal alien in possession of a firearm after he was involved in a shooting at a residence in Huntsville.
Rex Tidmore: He is a prior felon who had numerous firearms, an underground marijuana grow, and an outside marijuana grow. He was indicted for felon in possession, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
"In FY18, the United States Attorney’s Office Northern District of Alabama prosecutions of illegal firearms cases rose 27 percent to 286, which is the largest number of illegal firearms prosecutions ever recorded in the Northern District of Alabama and accounted for about half of all federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office. The previous high was 225, which was recorded in FY17. Nationally, the prosecution of illegal firearms defendants accounts for approximately 1 in 6 of all federal prosecutions. Project Safe Neighborhoods, the premier violent crimes reduction program reinvigorated by the Department of Justice in 2017, has continued to focus on habitual felony offenders engaged in violent behavior and the Department continues to break its own records for federal prosecutions as a result."
Turner's work as the ATF task force officer involves going around to different police departments in the region to see what gun crimes might qualify for federal prosecution.
"We hope by doing this we can have a bigger impact for the community," he said.