Federal agents and Maryland State Police seized 35 firearms--including two fully automatic machine guns--from the home of a convicted criminal in Charles County this month after the man tried to register some of the guns, court records show.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and state police raided the home of William Curtis Fletcher Sr., 56, of the 7100 block of Glen Albin Road in La Plata, on July 15 and carted away 12 handguns, 20 shotguns and rifles, two machine guns and one inoperable machine gun, said Mike Campbell, spokesman for the ATF's Baltimore field division.
Machine guns essentially were banned by the National Firearms Act of 1934, which was intended to stem the spread of mobsters with automatic weapons. The act, however, allows qualified collectors without criminal records to own or manufacture machine guns if they register the weapons with the ATF, submit their fingerprints and pay special taxes.
After passing a criminal record check, Fletcher legally acquired a German-made Heckler & Koch Model 94 9mm machine gun in December 1987 and a Georgia-made SWD Model M11 9mm machine gun in November 1988 and properly registered both firearms with the ATF, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt by ATF Special Agent Christopher J. Trainor.
On April 28 of this year, Fletcher filled out additional registration papers with state police in an attempt to comply with state regulations regarding the possession of machine guns, according to the ATF affidavit.
But after running another required record check, state police discovered that Fletcher had pleaded guilty on Sept. 27, 1994, in Charles County District Court to one count of battery--a misdemeanor, according to the affidavit.
He was given a 60-day suspended sentence and two years' probation.
At the time, the conviction did not make Fletcher ineligible to own guns. But that changed two years later, when Congress passed a gun-control law in 1996 prohibiting anyone with certain misdemeanor convictions from possessing firearms.
As a result of the record check, state police asked ATF to join the investigation. The ATF obtained a federal search warrant on July 14 to recover the machine guns from Fletcher's home, according to court records.
The next day, ATF agents and state police carried out the raid and ended up finding far more weapons than they had expected, said Campbell, the ATF spokesman.
Fletcher has not been charged with any crimes so far, though Campbell said the case has been referred to the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore for possible prosecution.
Contacted at his home yesterday, Fletcher declined to comment.
"I'm not going to discuss this with anybody," he said. "I don't want to say anything to jeopardize my case. I'm not going to address anything until it's resolved."