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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – United States Attorney Mike Stuart announced that three felons appeared before United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers for gun and drug crimes.

Justin J. Monroe, 34, of Beckley, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Monroe previously admitted that on September 20, 2019, a vehicle in which he was a passenger was stopped by the West Virginia State Police for speeding along Interstate 64 near Hurricane. Troopers later searched the vehicle, which was being driven by an inebriated driver, and recovered a Glock model 23 .40 caliber pistol. Monroe claimed ownership of the firearm on the scene, and later admitted to law enforcement that he knew he was a convicted felon which barred him from possessing the firearm, but he chose to keep it for protection. Monroe has two prior felony convictions in Raleigh County Circuit Court. The West Virginia State Police conducted the investigation.   Assistant United States Attorney Negar M. Kordestani handled the prosecution.

Desean Briscoe, 30, of Huntington, entered a guilty plea to an indictment charging him with possession with the intent to distribute heroin and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Briscoe admitted that on January 23, 2020, officers executed a search warrant at his residence at 850 Bronson Court in Huntington, finding  two firearms.  After he was arrested and taken to the Huntington Police Department, Briscoe told officers he had heroin hidden on his person.  Officers retrieved approximately 16 grams of heroin from Briscoe.  Briscoe was prohibited from possessing firearms due to a 2015 felony conviction in Wayne County Circuit Court for attempt to deliver a controlled substance. Briscoe faces up to thirty years in federal prison when he is sentenced on February 16, 2021. The Huntington Police Department conducted the investigation.   Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie S. Taylor is handling the prosecution.  The case was prosecuted as part of Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge (S.O.S.), an enforcement surge that seeks to reduce the supply of deadly synthetic opioids in high impact areas.

Joshua Ellis Paholsky, 47, of Ironton, Ohio, pled guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.  On March 11, 2019, FBI task force officers and deputies with the Cabell County Sheriff’s Office were coordinating drug interdiction on vehicles leaving a residence near 17th Street in Huntington.  A deputy pulled over one such vehicle driven by Paholsky, and a canine unit responded to the scene soon thereafter.  The drug canine alerted on the vehicle, and a search of the vehicle revealed approximately 1 gram of heroin and a loaded .380 caliber Smith and Wesson pistol.  In a Mirandized interview, Paholsky admitted to possessing the firearm.  Paholsky has a prior felony conviction for first degree robbery out of Cabell County.  Paholsky faces a maximum of 10 years in prison when sentenced on February 16, 2021. The FBI Southern Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) West Task Force and the Cabell County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Ryan A. Keefe is handling the prosecution.

These cases are part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. For more information about Project Guardian, please see: https://www.justice.gov/projectguardian.            

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case Nos. 3:20-cr-00047 (Monroe) 3:20-cr-00040 (Briscoe) and 3:19-cr-00199 (Paholsky).

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