EUGENE, Ore. – On October 1, 2014, Charles Thornton, 39 years old, of Patterson, California, was sentenced by U.S. District Chief Judge Ann Aiken to 41 months in federal prison for his role in a firearms straw purchasing and trafficking investigation. Upon his release from prison, Thornton will be on supervised release for three years.
In August 2008, Thornton, a felon and crack cocaine dealer, recruited a woman named Eleanor Arceneaux, a crack cocaine customer of his, to buy firearms for him from various firearms dealers in southern Oregon. Thornton needed others to buy firearms because, as a felon, he was prohibited from doing so. Purchases of guns in this manner, where the actual purchaser conceals his involvement from the seller of the firearm, are commonly known as “straw purchases.” Firearms straw-purchasing offenses are particularly reprehensible because those firearms often end up in the hands of people who are not lawfully allowed to possess them and regularly end up being used in violent crimes.
Over the next few months, Arceneaux acted as a straw-purchaser in purchasing approximately 35 firearms for Thornton and others. During the transactions involving Thornton, he gave Arceneaux the money to purchase the firearms, accompanied her to the firearms dealers, instructed her which firearms to purchase, and compensated her with crack cocaine. At least several of the firearms purchased during this scheme surfaced at crime scenes in the Oakland, California area shortly after purchase.
After being federally charged, Thornton pled guilty to three counts of making false statements in connection with the acquisition of firearms and three counts of being a felon in possession of firearms. Arceneaux, for her part, pled guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to straw purchase firearms and nine counts of making false statements in connection with the acquisition of firearms, and was sentenced earlier this year to five years of probation.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan J. Lichvarcik.