NORRISTOWN — A Whitpain Township couple and a North Wales man are in prison facing gun trafficking charges after Montgomery County authorities dismantled an alleged corrupt organization “that was profiting by arming criminals.”
District Attorney Kevin R. Steele alleged that during an 11-day span, between April 23 and May 3, Monica Ann Kumpf, her boyfriend, Philip Edward Jensen, and another friend, Gaime Petross Seyoum Hailemichael engaged in a criminal organization that illegally purchased 11 firearms and attempted to purchase six others from gun stores in Hatfield, Horsham, Upper Merion and West Norriton.
“This type of organization’s sole purpose is to make money by putting firearms in the hands of people who cannot lawfully buy and possess guns on their own. That should concern every law-abiding citizen,” Steele said during a news conference on Tuesday. “We’re talking about the dismantling of a corrupt organization that was profiting by arming criminals by trafficking illegal firearms.”
#MontcoPa DA: Charges in connection with the alleged #gun trafficking organization were filed against Monica Kumpf, 31, & Philip Jenson, 31, both of #BlueBell, & Gaime Hailemichael, 25, of #NorthWales.Each is being held on $1 million cash bail to await June 11 prelim hearings pic.twitter.com/cJhZpvZn4M— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) June 4, 2019
Some of the guns that were illegally purchased included Mini Draco AK-47 pistols, a smaller version of an AK-47 that is manufactured in Romania, according to court documents.
“This is a dangerous gun. It’s a small, easily concealed, semiautomatic weapon,” Steele said as he displayed the weapon to reporters. “You’re asking for violence when you see these types of weapons that are being put out there.”
Of concern for authorities, Steele said, is the fact that eight of the firearms have not been recovered by law enforcement.
“Any of those guns can be used to commit a crime,” said Steele, urging anyone who may have information about the whereabouts of those guns to contact county detectives or Hatfield police. “It’s significant that we were able to recover some of the guns, but we have our work cut out for us to try to find the others.
#MontcoPa DA Kevin Steele announces dismantling of alleged gun trafficking organization.STEELE: “We’re talking about the dismantling of a corrupt organization that was profiting by arming criminals by trafficking illegal firearms.” pic.twitter.com/CwUlyRTppJ— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) June 4, 2019
“Getting those eight guns off of the streets is a key part to making our community safer and this is something that we are continuing to investigate,” Steele added.
The investigation began when an employee of American Arms & Ammo in Hatfield contacted police regarding Kumpf who had purchased four guns from the business within three days. The employee “suspected that the female may have purchased the firearms for some nefarious purpose, possibly ‘straw purchases,’” detectives alleged in court papers.
Kumpf, 31, and Jensen, 31, who resided together in the 1600 block of Skippack Pike in Whitpain, and Hailemichael, 25, of the 100 block of Henning Drive in North Wales, each face charges of corrupt organizations, conspiracy, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and various gun-related offenses, including sales to ineligible persons and providing false information to gun dealers.
VIDEO: #MontcoPa DA Kevin Steele displays an AK-47 seized when authorities dismantled alleged corrupt organization involved in illegal #gun trafficking & arrested 3 people in connection with the activity pic.twitter.com/iWRAh55lSl— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) June 4, 2019
Each of the defendants is being held in the county jail in lieu of $1 million cash bail while awaiting their June 11 preliminary hearings on the charges. They were forced to surrender their passports at the time of their arrests.
One of the methods allegedly used by the group was to make or attempt to make so-called “straw purchases” of firearms from licensed firearms dealers in the county.
A so-called “straw purchase” occurs when the actual buyer of a firearm uses another person, the “straw purchaser,” to execute the paperwork necessary to buy a firearm from a federally licensed firearms dealer.
A “straw purchaser” is someone with a clean background who buys firearms specifically on behalf of someone who is prohibited by law from purchasing a firearm, either because of a previous felony conviction or because of a mental health issue.
VIDEO: #MontcoPa DA Kevin Steele alleges Monica Kumpf, 31, of #BlueBell was coached by co-defendants “how to act” while purchasing firearms from #gun stores during alleged gun trafficking activities. pic.twitter.com/HfVYdDqRJp— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) June 4, 2019
“The straw purchasers put the guns in the hands of criminals,” Steele said. “The law enforcement community of Montgomery County is highly vigilant to straw purchases, which is one of the primary ways that criminals get a hold of guns.”
Kumpf, detectives alleged, was the only member of the group who could legally buy and possess firearms. Jensen and Hailemichael each had prior criminal records that prohibited them from purchasing firearms, detectives alleged in court documents.
“The evidence shows that Jensen and Hailemichael planned the purchases of the firearms, telling Kumpf what guns and what types of guns and in what quantities to buy. They gave her money to buy them and they even used Hailemichael’s Uber account to Uber her to and from gun stores to make these purchases,” Steele alleged.
“They coached her on how to act and what to say while purchasing the guns at these gun stores,” Steele added. “Once Kumpf had the firearms in her possession, she turned them over to Jensen and Hailemichael, who in turn sold them on the street at a significant profit.”
Kumpf, according to Steele, was compensated for her role in the organization with lodging and methamphetamine, which she allegedly used and sold.
In addition to trafficking guns, Jensen and Hailemichael allegedly were involved in trafficking cocaine. When Hailemichael’s home was searched on May 10, detectives seized a half-kilo of cocaine which had a street value of between $75,000 and $100,000, authorities alleged.
#MontcoPa prosecutors displayed weapons seized during investigation of 3 people who allegedly operated a corrupt organization involved in illegal trafficking of firearms. #Guns pic.twitter.com/vJxlR15wXN— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) June 4, 2019
Hailemichael, at the time of the search, also possessed a loaded Beretta .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol that Kumpf allegedly had purchased on April 30 from a West Norriton gun store, according to court documents.
“Drugs and guns go together and that’s because it’s a dangerous business,” Steele alleged.
The defendants also face several drug-related charges, according to court papers.
Flanked by Hatfield Township Police Chief William Tierney and Whitpain Township Police Chief Ken Lawson at the news conference, Steele praised their joint investigation with county detectives and the FBI.
“Without all of these joint efforts we wouldn’t have been able to shut down this (gun) trafficking operation as quickly as we did,” Steele said.
The cases will be handled by Assistant District Attorney Laura J. Bradbury, captain of the district attorney’s firearms unit.