February 14, 2012: District Attorney Seth Williams today announced the arrest of a straw purchaser who bought numerous guns in Philadelphia for a teenager who then used one of those guns to shoot another young man. The Attorney General and District Attorney’s Office Gun Violence Task Force (GVTF) charged 32-year-old Luke Dercole with Illegal Transfer, Firearm Not to be Carried with a License, Carrying Firearms on Public Streets, Possession of a Firearm by a Minor, Corruption of a Minor, Conspiracy, Unsworn Falsifications to Authorities and Tampering with Public Records for buying four (4) guns for a 16-year-old drug dealer.
“The fact that a grown man bought four different guns for a 16-year-old is unfathomable,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “That coupled with the harsh reality that the teen then used one of those guns to shoot another young man only cements the need for tougher penalties for straw purchasers in Pennsylvania.”
“Buying multiple guns for a minor, who then shoots another teen, is not only unacceptable – it is a tragedy,” said Kathleen G. Kane, Pennsylvania Attorney General. “This is an example of enforcing sensible laws against illegal gun trafficking.”
Dercole, of the 6400 block of Lawndale Avenue in Philadelphia, was arrested on Wednesday night by GVTF Agents and is currently being held on $500,000 bail. Dercole is charged with straw purchasing for 16-year-old Michael Burak. Dercole bought the teenage drug dealer four (4) different guns on four (4) different occasions in northeast Philadelphia between October 17, 2012 and October 23, 2012.
Burak, then, allegedly used one of those guns to shoot 20-year-old Jonathan Espinoza on October 28, 2012 at 1250 Van Kirk Street, Philadelphia. Burak is facing Attempted Murder and other related charges for that shooting.
Police were lead to Dercole and Burak after a narcotics investigation in January of 2013. Agents were investigating a home on Frankford Ave when they discovered a 9mm, Glock, semi-automatic pistol. Police were able to determine that the firearm was one of four purchased by Luke Dercole in October of 2012. It was also determined that none of the four firearms were reported stolen or missing. Once interviewed by police Dercole admitted to buying the guns for 16-year-old Michael Burak in exchange for packages of heroin. Dercole told police he exchanged the different guns because Burak was not happy with the type of guns that Dercole obtained.
The investigation revealed that Luke Dercole purchased four firearms as follows:
- On October 17, 2012 Luke Dercole purchased a Ruger LCP .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
- On October 19, 2012 Dercole purchased a .22 caliber revolver, but he sold it back to the gun store on October 20, 2012.
- On October 20, 2012 when he sold back the .22, Dercole then purchased a .380 caliber Taurus, semi -automatic pistol.
- On October 23, 2012 Dercole then exchanged the .380 caliber Taurus for a 9mm Glock, semi-automatic pistol, the 9mm Glock was then used by Michael Burak to shoot 20-year-old Espinoza in October.
Dercole was arraigned overnight, and his next court appearance is scheduled for March 4, 2013. Since the straw purchases were made before December of 2012 Dercole is not eligible for the mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison under House Bill 898.
House Bill 898 effectively closed a legal loophole in Pennsylvania that prevented prosecutors from securing enhanced penalties for second and subsequent offenses by straw purchasers House Bill 898 ensures that anyone convicted of more than one illegal sale or transfer of a firearm is now subject to penalties for those second or subsequent offenses. An as a result of this legislation, these criminals will now receive sentences that reflect the seriousness of this crime. This legislation has become known as the “Brad Fox Law”, named for Plymouth Township Police Officer Brad Fox, who was shot and killed by a man who was sold numerous illegal guns by a straw purchaser and used one of those illegal guns to kill Officer Fox last year.