A Missouri man will spend five years in prison after admitting he sold guns and marijuana to undercover federal agents in Kansas City last year.
Antonio Rodriguez Robertson, 21, pleaded guilty in September to one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. In return, federal prosecutors dismissed 13 other drug and gun trafficking charges from an indictment filed in April.
According to court documents, Robertson sold undercover agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives small amounts of marijuana and multiple guns — including a 9mm Glock Model 17 pistol for $450, a 9mm Glock Model 19 pistol for $625, a Taurus 9mm pistol for $450, a .40 caliber Glock pistol for $700, an AR rifle DPMS Model 15 rifle for $1,100 — at a gas station in Kansas City in September 2017.
It’s unclear how Robertson obtained the guns, however, law enforcement in Kansas City reported last year an alarming rise in gun thefts across the city. Local law enforcement recorded 804 gun thefts in 2016 — up from 588 in 2015. In 2017, more than 830 guns went missing.
“It comes down to personal responsibility,” Mark Jones of Chicago, a retired supervisory special agent in the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, told the Kansas City Star in 2017. “All guns start life as a legal commodity. But when gun owners fail to protect their weapons, criminals take them into the underground market.”
Robertson’s conviction comes as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, a federal program targeting gun-related violence in the nation’s most dangerous cities. First launched in 2001, Project Safe Neighborhoods became the centerpiece of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s strategy for reducing crime across the nation — a goal President Donald Trump set for him soon after taking office last year.
“Taking what we have learned since the program began in 2001, we have updated it and enhanced it, emphasizing the role of our U.S. Attorneys, the promise of new technologies, and above all, partnership with local communities,” he said. “With these changes, I believe that this program will be more effective than ever and help us fulfill our mission to make America safer.”
The department awarded $98 million in grants to understaffed local law enforcement agencies and “seed money” to support investigations targeting gangs and traffickers. Some 20 U.S. Attorneys Offices also received 40 additional prosecutors tasked with reducing violent crimes in their respective district. The District of Kansas received more than $294,000 in federal funding this year to help increase weapons prosecutions.
The DOJ estimates murder rates in 29 of the county’s largest cities will decrease more than 7 percent this year. Federal data suggests 2018 could be the DOJ’s busiest year ever in more than a decade for weapons prosecutions.
Should authorities keep up at the current pace, total annual prosecutions will exceed more than 10,000 this year — a 22.5 percent increase over 2017 and up by nearly half over the last five years, according to the Transactional Records Clearing House.