Three locals indicted on firearm conspiracy

Men from Fresno, Visalia face charges of conspiracy to commit firearms trafficking and possession of a firearm by a felon; men face up to 15 years in prison, $250,000 fine

FRESNO – A federal grand jury has indicted three men, Wendell Moton, 33, of Fresno, and Donnie Hicks, 33, and McCael Marshall, 34, both of Visalia, with five counts in regards to conspiracy to commit firearms trafficking and possession of a firearm by a felon. 

U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert made the announcement earlier this month. According to court documents, Moton, Hicks and Marshall arranged to sell a machine gun to an undercover agent via the internet, and then were stopped by investigators on the way to the sale. Moton was then found with an additional firearm when he fled from police on another date.

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is a product of “Operation Gridlock,” a long-term investigation into a network of violent criminal street gangs by Homeland Security Investigations, the Fresno Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Department of Justice, the California Highway Patrol, the Fresno Sheriff’s Office, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office and the Fresno Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program designed to bring together all levels of law enforcement and the communities in order to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make neighborhoods safer. On May 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a violent crime reduction strategy that aims to strengthen PSN based on these principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities and measuring the results.

The case was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces. OCDETF aims to identify, disrupt and dismantle high-level criminal organizations that threaten the U.S. using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. For more information about OCDETF, visit Justice.gov/OCDETF.

This case is being prosecuted under the new criminal provisions of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which Congress enacted, and the President signed in June 2022. The act is the first federal statute specifically designed to target the unlawful trafficking and straw-purchasing of firearms.

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