Fled After Being Sentenced to 30 Months in Federal Prison for Possession of an Unregistered Fully Automatic Firearm
Baltimore, Maryland – James Piccirilli, age 38, of Mt. Airy, Maryland, was arrested on October 13, 2020, in New Salisbury, Indiana. Piccirilli was sentenced on January 13, 2020, by U.S. Circuit Judge Stephanie Thacker, sitting by designation in Baltimore, to 30 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for possession of an unregistered fully automatic firearm. Piccirilli fled after sentencing and did not meet his prison reporting date. He was located and arrested by law enforcement including federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore and Louisville Field Divisions, U.S. Deputy Marshals from Indiana, and officers from the Southeast Indiana Regional SWAT Team.
The arrest was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Tim Jones of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore Field Division; and U.S. Marshal Johnny Hughes.
On October 13, 2020, Piccirilli was arrested with his girlfriend, Kellie Warfield, age 29, of Mt. Airy, on criminal complaints charging Piccirilli with failing to surrender for service of sentence and Warfield with aiding and abetting. They both had initial appearances in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on October 14, 2020, and were ordered to be detained and transported to Maryland.
The National Firearms Act regulates certain firearms, known as “NFA firearms,” such as short-barreled rifles; fully automatic firearms; firearms that can be readily made fully automatic; and parts that can make a firearm fully automatic. Individuals may not possess an NFA firearm that is not registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR), nor can a person sell or transfer an NFA firearm without the prior approval of the ATF.
According to his guilty plea, on October 5, 2018, Piccirilli took an MKE 5.56mm caliber firearm, which had been altered to convert it into a fully automatic short-barreled rifle, bringing the firearm under the regulation of the NFA, to the home of another individual, who was a licensed gun dealer in Maryland. Piccirilli, formerly a police officer in Brunswick, Maryland, legally owned non-NFA firearms and had the skill and expertise to convert non-NFA firearms into NFA firearms. Piccirilli admitted that the firearm belonged to him, but it was not registered to him, in violation of the NFA.
According to information presented to the Court, Piccirilli tried to launder the unregistered firearm by attempting to have the gun dealer register the illegal firearm and/or sell it, so that the sale of the gun would appear to be legal. In December 2018, Piccirilli attempted to sell the firearm to an ATF undercover agent without ATF’s prior approval and in text messages and recorded calls tried to conceal the nature of the transaction. On December 14, 2018, as Piccirilli left his house to complete the transaction, he was apprehended by ATF agents. Investigators executed search warrants on his house and two vehicles, seizing 10 unregistered fully automatic firearms, one unregistered short-barreled rifle, and seven unregistered silencers.
Piccirilli pled guilty to possession of an unregistered NFA weapon and was sentenced on January 13, 2020, to 30 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He was ordered to remain on home monitoring and report to Bureau of Prisons custody by March 16, 2020. Instead, Piccirilli disabled his ankle bracelet and fled from Maryland with Warfield on January 24, 2020. ATF Baltimore Special Agents, assisted by U.S. Deputy Marshals from Baltimore, conducted an investigation to locate the couple, tracking multiple potential areas of the country and ultimately developing information that Piccirilli and Warfield were residing and working in the Harrison County area of Indiana. Search and arrest warrants were executed on October 13, 2020, in New Salisbury, Indiana, where the defendants were taken into custody, and in Ramsey, Indiana, where the couple was residing. ATF Special Agents executing the search warrants recovered ammunition and multiple firearms.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the ATF in Baltimore and Louisville, and the U.S. Marshals Service, for their work in locating and arresting Piccirilli and Warfield, and thanked the Southeast Indiana Regional SWAT Team, the Indiana State Police, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana for their assistance. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patricia C. McLane and Brandon Moore, who are prosecuting the case.