Feds charge Kansas City fire captain for selling guns to felons

Federal prosecutors last week announced a number of weapons charges against a career firefighter who sold guns without a license, some of which went on to be used in crimes.

James Samuels, 52, of Kansas City, was arrested on Oct. 4 following a lengthy investigation into his sale of dozens of firearms– primarily cheap Jimenez pistols– through a series of straw buyers to convicted felons. Authorities say that at least six of the guns have been involved in crimes including the murder of Alvino D. Crawford by a 16-year-old two years ago.

A 34-page affidavit filed in a Kansas City federal court by an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives cites that Samuels came under suspicion in January after a known straw purchaser reported eight Jimenez pistols stolen, many of which had been purchased at area gun stores by Samuels. Following up with one of the shops, a clerk told agents that he warned Samuels, who often brought in third parties to look at guns before he bought them, that he was acting as a firearms dealer without a license, reportedly telling the fireman that “he was playing with fire and was going to get burned.”

Known to also buy guns online, agents subpoenaed Samuels’s bidding history with Gunbroker.com to track FFLs where he had firearms shipped over a five-year period. When an area gun store he preferred for transfers went out of business, the firefighter even contacted Jimenez directly to buy guns, having five shipped to another store who refused to accept them. Working with a confidential informant, agents contend that Samuels resold the inexpensive guns, often to those who he believed to be felons incapable of legally possessing them, for as much as $500. He reportedly charged a premium for chrome guns.

Investigators found that of the 77 firearms Samuels bought since 2013, 57 were Jimenez pistols, noting that the type is “not a firearm that is frequently collected.” Of the 57, 43 were transferred to third parties with a half-dozen of those later recovered after their involvement in a crime.

Undercover agents made contact with Samuels through informants and purchased a number of firearms over the summer culminating in the sale on Sept. 5 of an ATI Omni-Hybrid AR-15 pistol and rifle he had picked up from an area gun store the same day. Talking to an informant and agent in the basement of his house, Samuels swatted away boasts made the intended buyer, who he knew to be a felon, that he was ready to “take me out about four motherfuckers,” by saying “Do what you do.”

After the man paid $700 for the gun, he asked Samuels that he was thinking about “torching these motherfuckers’ house too,” and asked for tips on how to commit arson without getting caught. Answering that “There ain’t really no way,” to avoid getting caught, Samuels recommended to make sure the intended arson scene did not have a camera, stressed to wear rubber gloves, and gave rudimentary instructions for building a molotov cocktail, (“A regular beer bottle. Put gas in it. When it hits phew.”) expressing that “I mean I’m not supposed to be telling you that shit.”

Making clear he would be using the fire following a quadruple murder, the informant told Samuels, “After I kill em I’m gonna put this fire on them.”

“Do what you do,” replied Samuels. “I mean I know you got…Look, you sometime you got to take care of business. I tell people, I say listen, sometimes people make you do stuff you don’t want to do man. Do what you got to do.”

Charged with selling a firearm and ammunition to a prohibited person and of transferring a firearm for use in a violent crime, Samuels is currently using a public defender. As reported by the Kansas City Star, Kansas City Fire Department officials said Samuels had worked for the department for over 20 years.

“Those who supply dangerous firearms to violent criminals are as much a threat to the safety of our community as the criminals themselves,” Timothy Garrison, U.S. attorney for Western Missouri, said in a statement. “We will aggressively prosecute not only those who illegally possess firearms but also the suppliers whose criminal conduct enables them to arm themselves with these weapons.”

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