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Cincinnati man sentenced to prison for leading conspiracy involving 56 firearms purchased with stolen credit cards

Southern District of Ohio, Press Release

A Cincinnati man was sentenced this month in U.S. District Court to 79 months (six years and seven months) in prison for crimes related to buying firearms with stolen credit card information and leading a conspiracy to pick up the firearms in illegal straw purchases, as well as separately obtaining a fraudulent COVID-relief loan.

Zephaniah Jones, 21, was convicted of conspiring to make false statements on federal firearms forms, committing aggravated identity theft and making false statements to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

According to court documents, from April through July 2022, Jones and others used stolen credit card information to place online orders for firearms with and other online retailers for delivery to Cincinnati. Under federal law, the firearms could not be shipped directly to Jones or a coconspirator; they had to be shipped to a local federal firearms licensee (FFL). 

At the FFL, Jones’s coconspirators lied on ATF Form 4473, a form required when purchasing a firearm from an FFL, by pretending to be the actual buyer of the firearms. In fact, the firearms were for Jones, who intended to resell them. In total, Jones and his coconspirators completed online orders for 56 firearms and succeeded in obtaining at least 37.

Some of the firearms involved in the conspiracy were traced to crimes within a short period of time. For example, just 15 days after purchase, one pistol was used to shoot into an occupied residence in Columbus; it was later also used in a shots-fired incident and a separate felonious assault. Another pistol was recovered from a juvenile less than three months after purchase, after being used in a different shots-fired incident in Columbus.

Separately, in February 2020, Jones submitted a fraudulent application for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, falsely claiming that he owned a business called Jones Lawncare LLC. As a result, Jones was awarded a PPP loan for nearly $21,000 that was later forgiven.

Jones was ordered to pay $20,643 in restitution to the SBA. The amount of restitution to be paid to the FFLs whose firearms were stolen will be determined at a later hearing.

Jones pleaded guilty in January 2024. Five other coconspirators in the straw-purchasing conspiracy have been charged federally.

Kenneth L. Parker, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Daryl S. McCormick, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) announced the sentence imposed by Senior U.S. District Judge Michael R. Barrett. Assistant United States Attorney Julie D. Garcia is representing the United States in this case. The case was investigated by the ATF with the assistance from the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.

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