Pa. man faces felony charges for allegedly buying, trafficking guns over 5-year period

Officials announced the arrest of a Pottstown, Pennsylvania man who is alleged to have participated in the straw purchasing and trafficking of over a dozen firearms over a 5-year period. 

Johnny Fowler, 28, faces multiple felony charges related to the straw purchasing and trafficking of 16 firearms from 2014 to 2019.

The investigation began after Philadelphia police seized a firearm during a traffic stop on August 11, 2021. The firearm was sized from a person who was not legally allowed to own one due to a prior felony conviction. 

Authorities traced the firearm back to Fowler and referred the case to Montgomery County detectives who found that Fowler began purchasing firearms in August 2014 shortly after his 21st birthday. To date, he has bought 16 firearms that have been found to be straw purchases, according to officials. 

A "straw purchase" is when a person with a clean background purchases firearms on behalf of another person to conceal the true ownership of the firearm. 

Detectives investigated Fowler's firearms purchases and found that between August 8, 2014 and April 10, 2019, Fowler purchased 18 firearms. Sixteen of those purchased firearms were straw purchases. 

So far, of the 16 firearms purchased by Fowler, three have been recovered by police. 

One of the guns recovered was found after in the fatal shooting of a juvenile and the shooting of an adult at a high school football game in which Pleasantville police responded. The adult victim was carrying the gun and was not legally allowed to possess a firearm. 

Authorities say that Fowler falsely reported to West Pottsgrove Police that seven firearms he purchased were stolen. He made the report of the stolen firearms a day after ATF agents contacted him and interviewed him about his gun purchasing activity. Fowler reported that the guns were stolen from the trunk of his car on April 22, 2019.

Included in the seven guns reported by Fowler as stolen was the firearm recovered by the NYPD almost a full year prior.

"This defendant was arming criminals, plain and simple. The recovery by law enforcement of three of the 16 straw purchased firearms show how far these illegal guns can travel and how they show up at crime scenes," said Steele. "Straw purchasers like Fowler need to be stopped in order to stop the arming of criminals. We need to have stronger tracking and reporting mechanisms in place to be able to flag this type of behavior in order to stop this flow of firearms onto the streets, making us all less safe."

Fowler was charged with multiple felony counts of Unlawful Transfer of a Firearm, Corrupt Organizations, Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activities, Criminal Use of Communications Facilities, Unsworn Falsification, Materially False Statements and multiple related offenses. 

He was arraigned on Dec. 11, 2021 and bail was set at $1 million cash. His bail was then reduced to $500,000 cash. The defendant was unable to make bail and was remanded to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.



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