September 11, 2013: 32-year-old Luke Dercole today in court admitted to buying numerous guns for a 16-year-old Philadelphia drug dealer. Dercole pleaded guilty to four (4) Violations of the Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA charges) before the Honorable Earl Trent.
Dercole, who had been out on bail for a few months after posting 10% of a $300,000 bail, immediately had his bail revoked pending sentencing. Judge Trent stated to the defendant, “Giving a gun to a 16-year-old is incomprehensible.” Dercole is facing a maximum of 14 years in prison when he is sentenced on October 28, 2013.
District Attorney Seth Williams announced Dercole’s arrest in February 2013, when an investigation revealed that the one of the guns Dercole bought for the teenager was used to shoot another young man. The Attorney General and District Attorney’s Office Gun Violence Task Force (GVTF) charged Dercole with several crimes including Illegal Transfer for buying four (4) guns for a 16-year-old drug dealer.
At the time of Dercole’s arrest District Attorney Seth Williams said, “The fact that a grown man bought four different guns for a 16-year-old is unfathomable. 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 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, and the 9mm Glock was then used by Michael Burak to shoot 20-year-old Espinoza in October.