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A Roanoke Rapids man was sentenced today to 60 months in prison for straw purchasing over 30 firearms for individuals who would otherwise not be able to purchase them lawfully. 

On July 6, 2023, Raquel Braswell pleaded guilty to engaging in the business of dealing firearms without a license and knowingly making a materially false statement to a federally licensed firearm dealer.

“We are partnering with local law enforcement to square off against violent felons and the straw buyers who arm them,” said United States Attorney Michael Easley.  “This defendant served as a one-man pipeline for firepower, buying dozens of guns for felons and other prohibited persons, endangering our community, and making our police officers’ jobs more dangerous. We will keep using our local partnerships and the new Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to put gun runners behind bars where they belong.” 

Roanoke Rapids police Chief Shane Guyant said, “We are extremely fortunate in the Northeastern part of North Carolina to have such a diligent and focused U.S. Attorney's Office. We are fortunate to have such a strong partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.”

Guyant said law enforcement officers risk their lives daily whether it be stopping motor vehicles, answering calls for service, or serving their communities. “The danger of facing a firearm increases with each public interaction. To think that individuals like this defendant would assist those convicted of violent felonies obtain so many firearms illegally is troublesome and terrifying.”

The police chief said, “I fear for my officers each time they have interactions not knowing whether the person has bad intentions with a firearm. We offer a special thank you to the law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys who brought this case to a conclusion.”

ATF Special Agent in Charge Bennie Mims said, “Straw purchasing has a tremendous impact on violent gun crime, often putting firearms in the hands of dangerous individuals and individuals prohibited from possessing a firearm.”

Said Mims: “Identifying straw purchasers and holding those responsible for arming prohibited individuals is critical to addressing gun crime in our communities.”

According to court documents and other information presented in court, Braswell, 25, purchased firearms for individuals who could not legally buy them between October 2, 2021, and May 30, 2022. 

When law enforcement caught one of his purchasers, a felon, with a gun, they discovered Braswell had bought the firearm for him just hours earlier. 

When agents from the ATF and RRPD confronted Braswell, he initially claimed that someone had stolen his firearms. 

However, he later admitted to engaging in the offense. 

Braswell admitted being paid between $200 and $400 for each firearm he purchased and acknowledged that he knew the individuals he bought firearms for were not legally allowed to possess them.

Because his offense conduct concluded in May of 2022, Braswell was not subject to the new criminal provisions and enhanced penalties of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which Congress enacted, and the president signed in June 2022.  

The act is the first federal statute specifically designed to target the unlawful trafficking and straw-purchasing of firearms.

United States District Judge James C. Dever III sentenced Braswell. 

The RRPD and the ATF investigated the case and Assistant United States Attorney Phil Aubart  prosecuted the case.