‘Mann’ with a Plan: Alleged Straw Purchase Scheme Results in 35 Criminal Charges

| March 12, 2023

SANDYCREEK TWP., Pa. (EYT) – A man named Mann is facing a litany of charges after allegedly masterminding a straw purchase scheme to illegally acquire firearms.

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According to court documents, State Police for the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) arrested 52-year-old Walter Thomas Henry Mann, of Ohio, on March 1, 2023, following an investigation regarding straw purchase transactions.

Court documents indicate that criminal charges were filed against 52-year-old Walter Thomas Henry Mann in Magisterial District Judge Matthew T. Kirtland’s office on July 13, 2022.

According to a criminal complaint, the ATF Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC) identified several firearms purchases conducted by co-defendant 43-year-old Julie Marie Sylvester , of Oil City, that were indicative of straw purchase transactions. Throughout the month of May 2020 until August 2020, numerous firearms transactions conducted by Sylvester where multiple firearms were purchased at different Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) in a relatively short period.

Two of the firearms that were purchased by Sylvester were recovered in the Detroit, Michigan, and Akron, Ohio areas by law enforcement investigating unrelated crimes, the complaint states.

On May 13, 2020, Sylvester proceeded to an area trading post where she purchased a Keltec, Model Sub-2000, 9mm rifle. On August 16, 2020, the Akron, Ohio Police Department recovered this firearm. The time to crime for the recovery was 95 days, and Sylvester did not report the firearm stolen, according to the complaint.

Approximately one month later, on June 22, 2020, Sylvester purchased two firearms at a sporting goods store in Meadville: a Remington Arms, Model RP9, 9mm pistol and a Smith and Wesson Model M&P 40 Shield, .40 caliber pistol, the complaint indicates.

On July 31, 2020, Sylvester purchased two firearms at a firearms store in Jackson Center: a Phoenix Arms, Model HP25B, .25 caliber pistol and a Taurus, Model G3, 9mm pistol.

On August 7, 2020, Sylvester returned to the area trading store and purchased two firearms: a SAR Arms, Model B6, 9mm pistol and an ISSC Model M22, .22 caliber pistol.

On December 27, 2020, the Detroit Police Department recovered the ISSC pistol that was purchased by Sylvester in the possession of a known individual at the intersection of Marlowe Street and Puritan Avenue, in Detroit, Michigan. The time to crime for the recovery of the ISSC pistol was 142 days. Sylvester did not report this firearm stolen, according to the complaint.

On March 10, 2021, an ATF Special Agent conducted an interview with Sylvester at her residence located in Oil City regarding the seven firearms she had purchased beginning in May 2020 throughout August 2020. Her father and then-boyfriend were also present during the interview, the complaint notes.

According to Sylvester, during the time she purchased the firearms, she was dating the defendant, Mann, who she had met online through dating social media applications. Sylvester stated that Mann is originally from the New Jersey area but was living in the Cleveland, Ohio area when they began conversing. Sylvester stated that she and Mann quickly started living together at her residence in Oil City, according to the complaint.

She stated that Mann brought up the concept of having firearms at their residence for “protection.” She later confirmed to the Special Agent that she made each of the seven purchases with Mann present, who would suggest which guns to purchase and would give her the money for each transaction.

On May 21, 2022, at 10:00 a.m., a Pennsylvania State Trooper re-interviewed Sylvester at the PSP Franklin Barracks. He read and explained to Sylvester her Miranda Rights, Warnings, and Waiver. She agreed to speak to him about this case. The interview was both audio and video recorded which was acknowledged by Sylvester, the complaint notes.

Sylvester confirmed her earlier admissions that she purchased a total of seven guns from May 13, 2020, to August 7, 2020, that ultimately ended up in her then-boyfriend’s (Mann) possession, who is prohibited. She confirmed that each of the seven times that she purchased a gun, Mann accompanied her to the gun store and told her which gun she should buy. Sylvester confirmed that Mann gave her the money for each of the seven purchases, the complaint states.

Sylvester confirmed that Mann told her that he was not allowed to buy guns himself. Sylvester stated Mann took possession of each of the guns and kept them under the mattress on his side of the bed. She added that he would leave the house with the guns and subsequently sell (or trade for drugs) each of the guns without her consent or knowledge. Later, Mann would convince her to purchase more guns as the cycle continued, according to the complaint.

According to court records, Mann was arraigned at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday, March 2, on the following charges in front of Judge Kirtland:

  • Possession of Firearm Prohibited (seven counts), Felony 2
  • Firearms Not To Be Carried w/o License (seven counts), Felony 3
  • Conspiracy – Firearm Ownership – Duty Of Other Persons (seven counts), Felony 3
  • Conspiracy – Makes Any Materially False Oral Statement (seven counts)
  • Conspiracy – Penalties – Sales to Ineligible Transferee (seven counts), Felony 3

Unable to post $15,000.00 monetary bail, Mann was lodged in the Venango County Prison.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 15, at 1:30 p.m. with Judge Kirtland presiding.

Case Against Julie Marie Sylvester

The following charges against Sylvester were transferred to Venango County Court of Common Pleas following a preliminary hearing on August 3, 2022, in front of Judge Kirtland:

– Firearm Ownership – Duty of Other Persons, Felony 3
– Makes Any Materially False Oral Statement
– Materially false written statement – purchase, delivery, transfer of a firearm, Felony 3

During a plea hearing on December 16, 2022, Sylvester pleaded guilty to Unsworn Falsification to Authorities, a second-degree misdemeanor. As a result of the negotiated plea agreement, the above-listed charges were dismissed.

She was sentenced to 24 months of probation on March 9, 2023, with President Judge Marie T. Veon presiding.


Oil City Woman, Ohio Man Face Felony Firearms Charges in Gun-Purchasing Scheme

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Category: Local News, News, Police & Fire Calls

Gavin Fish is a reporter for EYT Media Group and YouTuber based in Venango County. In addition to his YouTube Channel, he has contributed to investigations and reports for ABC News, Investigation Discovery, and Fox Nation, and has collaborated on projects developed for Netflix, Oxygen, Discovery Channel, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.
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