Feds bust locals for big guns

by Steve Gonzalez |
Mar. 29, 2005, 10:27am

U.S. Attorney Ronald J. Tenpas with Glenn Anderson (ATF) Weysan Dun (FBI) Charles Brueggeman (Illinois State Police)Chris Sullivan (Alton Police) Robert Hertz (Sheriff Madison County)

A Godfrey woman who helped blow up a mailbox was indicted along with 10 other men by a federal grand jury on weapons violations, according to U.S. Attorney Ronald Tenpas.

Flanked by members of the ATF, FBI, Alton Police, Illinois State Police, Illinois Secretary of State Police and Madison County Sheriff Robert Hertz, Tenpas said in a press conference Tuesday that federal officials had seized more than 50 machine guns and 19 destructive devices--including seven hand grenades and two silencers--from the suspects who live in Madison County and St. Charles County.

“The Department of Justice is committed to keeping our community safe from the threat of gun violence,” Tenpas said.

Laura Brown, 25, of Godfrey was charged with one count of aiding and abetting the destruction of personal property by explosion, one count of possession of an unregistered firearm, one count of possession of a destructive device and one count of aiding and abetting the destruction of a mailbox.

According to court documents, Brown blew up a mailbox at 3203 Torch Club Road in Alton on July 5, 2004.

Andy Anderson, assistant special agent in charge of the ATF, claims that this is the largest one-time seizure of illegal machine guns in southern Illinois.

“Residents living in southern Illinois can rest much easier knowing that these explosive and military type weapons are no longer a threat to them or their children,” Anderson said.

The weapons included AK-47s, Uzis and belt-fed machine guns that were converted to fully automatic weapons.

Randall Brown, 53, of Godfrey was charged with one count of engaging in the business as a manufacturer of firearms, 20 counts of possession of an unregistered firearm, 19 counts of possession of a machine gun and other charges related to explosives and silencers.

Mark Chappel, 22, of Alton; Christopher Hall, 23, of Godfrey; Charles Hempill III, 43, of Alton; Christopher Howard, 40 of Godfrey; Mark Howard, 48, of Godfrey; Michael Owens, 56 of Maryville; Eric Terry, 38 of Alton; William Vogt, 23, of Alton and James Dean Wehrle of St. Charles, Mo. were also charged on various machine gun and explosive device charges.

Federal agents are seeking to hold two suspects in custody until trial claiming they were in possession of Neo-Nazi and other racist literature and may pose a risk to others.

Aiding and Abetting the Destruction of Personal Property by Explosion carries a minimum term of five years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of twenty years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.

Aiding and Abetting the Destruction of a Mailbox carries a maximum sentence of not more than three years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

All other charged offenses carry a penalty of not more than ten years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.

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